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Climate change

Advocating for psychological science at COP26

APA and the Global Psychology Alliance advocated for the inclusion of psychological science in global climate policy at the COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow.

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2021, November 15). Advocating for psychological science at COP26.

adult and child observing wind turbines

On behalf of the Global Psychology Alliance (GPA), APA’s Senior Director for International Affairs Amanda Clinton, PhD, coordinated APA’s first delegation to COP26, the annual United Nations (UN) climate change conference which took place from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. Other members of the delegation included: Nicola Gale, PhD, of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations, Sofia Ramalho and Tiago Pereira of the Order of Portuguese Psychologists, Valeriia Palii, PhD, of the National Psychological Association of Ukraine, and Terri Morrissey and Richard Plenty, PhD, from This Is… Consulting in Ireland.

COP26 serves as a global gathering for the world’s climate change community as well as a forum for diplomatic meetings and negotiations. An estimated 30–40,000 people attended from around the world, including from businesses, scientific associations, and nongovernmental organizations. The conference provided an extraordinary opportunity for APA and GPA to interact with policymakers, industry leaders, scientists, and others to elevate psychology’s role in addressing the climate crisis.

The GPA delegation aimed to increase awareness of psychology’s contributions to addressing the climate crisis and discuss the role of psychological science with leaders of specific countries in attendance, particularly those where the GPA has a psychological association member. Accordingly, the GPA delegation initiated conversations, confirmed follow-up engagement, and discussed future interactions with every country with a pavilion in which the GPA has a national association.

As part of our contribution to COP26, APA jointly issued a report on November 4 with ecoAmerica entitled, "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate," authored by Susan Clayton, PhD, and Christie Manning Clad, PhD. APA’s Climate Change Task Force, which includes Richard Plenty, PhD, is developing recommendations that will guide the next stage of psychologists’ work on climate change.

NEXT STEPS. Following COP26, GPA will host a small virtual conference on November 18–19 entitled, "Psychology in Action: Leading for the Climate," which will focus on psychology’s contributions to ameliorating global climate change (PDF. 250KB) at the policy and programmatic levels. The conference will feature current and former APA presidents and other experts, including the Honorable Abdulla Shahid, president of the UN General Assembly, who will discuss global climate policy, and Brian Dixon, co-convener of the New Zealand Psychological Society’s Climate Psychology Task Force, who will discuss grassroots advocacy.

Register for the conference

BACKGROUND. APA, on behalf of GPA, has been admitted as an observer organization to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), granting APA and GPA permission to attend COP26. The UNFCCC was established in 1992, and now has nearly 200 countries who are “party” to the Convention. These parties meet annually, often leading to significant global commitments; for example, the Paris Climate Accords were agreed upon at COP21 in 2015. APA’s admittance as a UNFCCC observer organization is based on more than a decade of psychology’s climate change research and advocacy. At the international level, this includes APA’s co-hosting the 2019 International Summit on Psychology and Global Health: A Leader in Climate Action and being accredited as an official observer organization at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the only major U.S. behavioral science organization in that role.

Contact Amanda Clinton in APA’s Office of International Affairs for more details.