In this English listening practice lesson, I have recorded a topic which is about climate change and the recent COP 26 climate conference that was hosted in Glasgow in Scotland by the UK government. Making interesting English lessons is important. Keeping you focused and engaged in the content you need to learn to improve your English skills is half the battle when learning a new language. In this lesson, you will hear lots of English vocabulary, idioms, phrases and British culture and views, so jump in and start listening now.
The COP26 was a two week UN-sponsored international conference held in the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, UK. COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ this is a term used by the United Nations Climate Change which is used to refer to meetings held annually during its Convention period. The conference seeks to reduce global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degrees if possible.
With important countries not attending the event, and some
important world leaders sleeping during presentations, ask yourself, are we taking these problems seriously any more? Even the event’s name suggests we have genuine problems agreeing to make changes collectively. We are in the 26th meeting and we still don’t have a common world agreement dealing with the key issue of temperature rises.
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Conference Climate Delegates Protestors Temperature Fossil Climate Expression
Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Today let’s learn some vocabulary about climate change. And to give you some English practice, let’s talk about something really topical, which we’ve all heard about and about which there are a lot of different opinions.
‘Climate change’ is the expression we use when we’re talking about changes to our weather, changes to the temperature of the earth and the seas. And ‘climate change’ is used to mean those effects which are worrying, which perhaps will be negative ones.
The word ‘climate’ on its own, CLIMATE is used to just mean our weather, the temperature of the land and the sea. It’s the ‘change’ part that’s worrying.
So it’s a couple of weeks now since the climate change conference in Glasgow, COP26. A ‘conference’, CONFERENCE means a very big meeting or a series of meetings, which run over several days. This was the biggest political summit meeting held in the UK, with 40,000 delegates, including world leaders and various members of royalty and 100,000 protestors.
A ‘summit meeting’ just means a meeting with lots of heads of state, lots of world leaders. And delegates, DELEGATES means ‘people who were officially invited to the conference’. And protestors, PROTESTORS, these are the people who weren’t invited, but who were outside the conference, there to protest, there to make their opinion and their disagreement known.
‘World leaders’ means the leaders, the heads of all the different countries. And it’s called COP26 - so COP stands for ‘Conference of Parties’ and ‘26’ because this is the 26th time that the conference has been held. It didn’t happen last year of course, because of the pandemic. So the Glasgow conference was meant to be ‘the last and the best hope’ of averting climate change which could be disastrous for certain parts of the world.
The aim was ‘to keep 1.5ºC alive’ - that was the slogan. This means ‘to keep alive the hope that we’ll limit global warming to no more than 1.5ºC above the temperature before the industrial revolution.’ Vocabulary here again? So ‘global warming’ means the heating up of the earth, of the globe. And we’re trying to limit temperature rise, because of various bad effects. And ‘the temperature before the industrial revolution’.
Well ‘temperature’ is TEMPERATURE and it means ‘What degrees celsius?’ or ‘What degrees Fahrenheit?’ That’s ‘temperature’. And the industrial revolution? Well, that means the time in the 1700s and the 1800s when we started to use factories and machines to make things. We started to ‘industrialise’ - and that’s when we started to pollute the world on a much bigger scale, much more. And the verb ‘to pollute’, POLLUTE and of course, the noun ‘pollution’ - that’s when we put bad chemicals into the environment, often with very bad results. That was a lot of vocabulary, wasn’t it?
The problem with this summit meeting, COP26 - was that you have 197 countries coming together to try to arrive at an agreement. But those 197 countries represent a lot of different ideologies - an ‘ideology’ means ‘sets of ideas, a way of looking at the world’. And they are 197 countries with a lot of different economic situations, so they all have different goals.
Some are developed nations, some are not. Some are big contributors to pollution and are thought to contribute a lot to climate change - and others, hardly at all. So trying to get agreement on how to implement, how to put into action what was agreed at the climate change conference in Paris, 2015 - this was the job of COP26 in Glasgow. But although the result of that Paris conference was very positive at the time, it seems that countries have not been willing to sign the agreement which will actually make the necessary changes.
When it came down to it, different countries’ interests got in the way. It’s also difficult when the leaders of two of the biggest countries in the world - Russia and China - didn’t come to the conference. However, the Americans did attend - President Biden was there and as one commentator said, he ‘managed to stay awake’.
Barack Obama was also there, making a keynote speech, but he was very rude about the coffee in Glasgow and seemed to confuse Scotland with Ireland, when he referred to it as ‘The Emerald Isle’! However the result of the conference was the important thing - but this didn’t work out well either.
A change of words, of wording, right at the end of the conference, had the effect of ‘watering down’ what was agreed. If you ‘water something down’, it means you weaken it, you make it not as strong, less effective - like if you were to add water to your wine. At the last minute the wording of the agreement was changed. Power stations are factories which generate electricity using coal, that’s COAL or ‘fossil fuel’.
A photograph of a nodding oil pump heads silhouetted in sunlight. In this English listening practice lesson. We talk about how climate change is affecting the world and how we may need to reduce our carbon emissions even more to stop the global warming.
This is the sort of thing that we’re meant to be stopping. And the agreement was meant to say that these ‘coal-fired power stations’ would be ‘phased out’ by the 2040s. ‘Phased out’ means they’d be gone, there wouldn’t be any in existence any more. But instead the wording was changed to ‘phased down’ at the last minute - which just means the promise is there’ll be fewer of them. Not the same thing at all.
You could say you’d met that goal by having just one less coal-fired power station in the world, though that obviously would have little positive effect. Another phrase to ‘water it down’ was added onto the end of the agreement. It said ‘Or as soon as possible thereafter’. So a promise to do something by a certain time is one thing - a promise to do something ‘as soon as possible thereafter’ is just not the same thing! I wouldn’t accept that promise if it was about my son putting on the dishwasher!
For some nations represented at the conference, the situation is already urgent. One of the images that will be remembered long after COP26 is that of Simon Kofe, Foreign Minister of Tuvalu in the South Seas. His video was shown at the conference. In it, he was giving a speech at a lectern - that’s the tall table that people rest their notes on, when they’re giving a speech.
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Simon Kofe was pleading for his country, which is at risk of being covered by sea water in the next few years, if ocean temperatures continue to rise. Only towards the end of this video does the camera pan out - to show that he’s actually standing up to his knees in sea water. Leaders of other countries, who have not contributed much to climate change, yet who are suffering because of it, also made similar speeches, hoping those at COP26 would listen.
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This is really good for your English language learning. And the podcasts cover all kinds of topics to keep you interested. Back to COP26…..
So what do we learn from this conference? Well, first of all maybe that people are ‘self-interested’ - people want to look after themselves first. And to some extent, that’s understandable. Leaders of countries are not going to agree to something that means that the people in their country aren’t going to be able to heat their homes in the winter or to manufacture goods or to run their cars and transport systems.
No country is going to ‘shoot themselves in the foot’ like this - there’s an idiom for you to look up! It’s difficult for countries to give up so called ‘fossil-fuels’. ‘Fossil fuel’ is the term used for oil and coal and gas - fuels that you find underground. And everyone is still reliant on coal, oil and gas. And until there are viable alternatives, until there are other ways of doing heating, manufacturing and transport, no politician is going to sign an agreement on climate change that is meaningful in a practical way.
The alternatives that we have so far to fossil fuels aren’t practical enough. And while this remains the case, world leaders are not going to sign up to agreements which limit the use of fossil fuels. So we get no further ahead. I think if future conferences like this one are to have more success then there must be viable, usable alternatives, to oil, coal and gas. We are entirely reliant on forward-thinking scientists to solve this urgent problem for us and for the world.
If that doesn’t happen, we may be ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ in a much bigger way. Let us know what you think.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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- Scottish Event Campus (SEC) venue
- Tuvalu seeks to retain statehood
- The severity of climate change
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- Barack Obama COP26 speech
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