COP 26 and an Interview with Colm
In this episode of the Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack interviews Colm Downs who has been working on the British Council's Climate Connection project. The focus of the podcast is climate change and COP26 .
Jack: Hello. My name’s Jack.
Rowan: And I’m Rowan.
Jack: Welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast.
Rowan: In the Premier Skills English podcast, we talk about football and help you with your English but today, we’re also talking about climate change.
Jack: Why are we talking about climate change?
Rowan: Have you seen the news recently?
Jack: Yes. I read the news … What story do you mean?
Rowan: It’s the COP.
Jack: The FA Cup?
Rowan: Not the cup, the COP. COP 26 in Glasgow.
Jack: Of course, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This is a really important event because we are all facing a climate emergency. We need our leaders to agree to some serious changes to protect the planet.
Rowan: I think that all our listeners will be aware of the dangers we all face, but there are a lot of interesting stories in the news at the moment with some complicated vocabulary.
Jack: We’re going to start with a quiz and then I’m going to interview Colm Downes who works for the British Council and has been developing materials on climate change for teachers, to help them talk about climate change to their students.
Rowan: But before we start all that, I think we should talk about the most important question about climate change?
Jack: The most important question?
Rowan: Yes. What do you think the impact will be on football?
Jack: Really? Football is important, but I think there are bigger issues.
Rowan: OK. Perhaps it’s not the most important question, but I still want to ask it.
Jack: Well … I’m not sure who we can ask. Perhaps we can find another expert to interview. What do you think the impact on football will be?
Rowan: Hmmm. I don’t know if changing weather patterns will have an impact on the Premier League.
Jack: We are already experiencing more extreme weather; stronger winds and more rain.
Rowan: So that could lead to matches being postponed.
Jack: What about rising sea levels?
Rowan: Yeah! That might be a problem for some clubs.
Jack: I read an article in Time Out last week that warned that much of central London is at risk of flooding due to sea levels rising and suggested that Chelsea and Fulham might be underwater by 2030.
Rowan: Yes. I saw that. It didn’t say that they would be under water, just under the annual flood level.
Jack: That’s still going to be a big problem.
Rowan: Lots of London is at Risk, not just the football clubs. The Houses of Parliament are at risk as well.
Jack: Yeah, but Stamford Bridge!
Rowan: I think London will be OK. I reckon they will build good flood defences. But some countries are going to suffer more.
Jack: I agree. Hopefully the world leaders in Glasgow are going to come up with ways to reduce the impact of climate change.
Jack: OK – before we do the quiz, I want to look at the last football phrase. The phrase was quite an easy one and we had a lot of correct answers. If you haven’t left a comment on the Premier Skills English website, listen to the phrase now to see if you can work out the answer.
Jack: This week’s football phrase is a phrasal verb. The is to **** ***. This is what happens to a footballer when they get shown a red card. If a player gets two yellow cards or does something very very naughty, the referee will show them a red card and they will be **** ***.
Jack: Congratulations to Sher from Iran, Mehmet Sisman from Turkey, Nebuwa Chizoba from Nigeria, Hsn – also from Turkey, Emmanuel from France, Ali Mohamed and Mon from Egypt, Wilson 2013 from Colombia, Mobeckham – also in Turkey and Hayato from Japan.
Jack: All of you correctly worked out that the football phrase this time was to send off. There will be a new football phrase at the end of this podcast.
Jack: Now it’s time for a quiz.This is a really important topic. We’re going to start with a vocabulary quiz. Rowan, I am going to test your knowledge of the most important vocabulary and everybody that’s listening can try to guess the answers at the same time.
Rowan: These are really serious issues and the vocabulary you need to understand the news about this conference and the other stories you might read is very important.
Jack: We’re doing a quiz because we think it’s a good way to present the language.
Rowan: The topic isn’t fun, but we want you to enjoy the podcast and think about the language so we’re presenting the language in a fun way.
Jack: See if you can get the answers faster than Rowan.
Rowan: OK – so how is the quiz going to work?
Jack: This will be a blockbusters style quiz. I’m going to give you the first letter of the word and a description and I want you to tell me what the word is.
Rowan: I know what blockbusters is
Jack: Yes, but for our listeners.
Rowan: Can I have a p please bob?
Jack: Sorry Rowan. It’s not going to work exactly like the quiz. Here we go:
Jack: Question 1. What C is a noun that means the general or normal weather that is usually found in a particular place. For example, the C – word is much warmer in Spain than it is in the UK. And the conference in Glasgow at the moment is trying to work out how to stop the c-word from changing.
Rowan: I don’t think you should say c-word. It sounds like you are censoring yourself. Like you’re saying something offensive.
Jack: OK – what C – but the letter, not the … sea. Do you know the answer?
Rowan: Of course, I do. We’ve said this word 5 times already in the podcast. The word is climate.
Jack: That’s right. This word is being used a lot these days. You hear it in the phrase climate change. In Glasgow, politicians from around the world are meeting to take part in the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Rowan: I think that all of the listeners knew that already. What’s question 2?
Jack: Yes. Question 2 … OK … What C, the letter …
Rowan: C again?
Jack: Yes. What C means an extremely dangerous situation or a time of great suffering.
Rowan: Erm …
Jack: You hear the word a lot at the moment collocated with climate. It’s similar to emergency.
Rowan: Climate … crisis! The answer is crisis.
Jack: Well done. That was a bit more difficult.
Rowan: It was a bit more difficult. But you’re right, It’s in the news a lot at the moment. A lot of the protesters are talking about the climate emergency and the climate crisis.
Jack: Are you ready for the next question?
Rowan: Of course. I’m two out of two at the moment.
Jack: Perhaps this one will be more difficult. Question 3. What G is used in a noun phrase that describes the warming of the earth due to the increase in carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere.
Rowan: Erm … can you tell me the other words in the phrase?
Jack: I could ... that might make it too easy.
Rowan: Erm …
Jack: OK, the noun phrase is the G-word effect.
Rowan: And it means the rise in temperatures caused by the carbon dioxide and other erm … greenhouse gases … it’s the greenhouse effect.
Jack: I thought I’d got you there. We have known about the greenhouse effect for a long time. I remember hearing about it when I was a kid. I had a greenhouse in my garden, for growing tomatoes and … well my mum tried to grow other things, but I only really remember the tomatoes growing properly.
Rowan: The greenhouse effect is really scary. I think that the phrase the climate crisis is more appropriate. What’s next?
Jack: Question 4. What G is used in a noun phrase …
Rowan: You’ve just done this.
Jack: No. This is a different G in a different noun phrase, and it describes the increase in the temperature of the planet.
Rowan: Can you tell me the other word in the noun phrase?
Jack: Erm … it starts with w. What G-word – W word?
Rowan: Hmmm. This noun phrase means the increase in temperatures – so the planet is getting hotter …
Jack: You’re close.
Rowan: Aha! I’m getting warmer ... warming. Global warming.
Jack: That’s right. Global because it’s about temperatures all around the planet.
Rowan: Sometimes I think that the phrases greenhouse effect and global warming are not strong enough to describe the damage we’re doing. Especially on winter days – I’ve heard people joking that they wouldn’t mind a bit of global warming ... it sounds like the weather’s just going to be a bit nicer.
Jack: I know. I think that’s why people talk more about climate change and try to emphasize that the problems for most people aren’t going to be the temperatures.
Rowan: Yeah, we’re already seeing more extreme weather; more frequent and more powerful storms. These will affect far more people.
Jack: Lets’ move on to the final question in this quiz. Question 5. What R is used in a noun phrase to describe … OK. This one is hard to explain without using the words. We actually used the phrase earlier when we were talking about Chelsea being under water.
Rowan: I think I know what R you are looking for. Did you see the speech made by Tuvalu’s foreign minister at COP26?
Jack: Yes. This is something that is going to destroy places like Tuvalu.
Rowan: So … the answer is rising sea levels.
Jack: Well done. The sea levels are rising for two reasons. Do you know what they are?
Rowan: Two reasons? I thought it was because glaciers and the ice at the North Pole and South Pole is melting.
Jack: I think that’s the main reason. But water expands when the temperature increases so that’s another reason.
Rowan: In the quiz, we’ve covered C for climate and the phrases climate change and climate emergency.
Jack: And C for crisis in the phrase climate crisis.
Rowan: We’ve looked at G for greenhouse and the phrase greenhouse effect.
Jack: And G for global and the phrase global warming and global temperatures.
Rowan: And the last question was about R for rising sea levels.
Jack: And now it’s time for Colm’s interview.
Jack: OK … so Colm … Thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed today and to talk a little bit about COP26. So my first question is, what is COP26?
Colm: OK … Well, Hi Jack. It's great to be with you. Um … Well COP26 is the United Nations Climate Change Conference it's actually Climate Change Conference of the Parties and it is a global summit that is focused, really, on everything all of us can do to tackle the climate crisis.
Jack: And … um … what about COP26? What … what happened in COP25 and COP24?
Colm: Well, COP26 right now is taking place in Glasgow … er … in Scotland in the UK and … er … we are halfway through it's a two-week summit. The previous COPs that have taken place, I think in 2019 there was one in Madrid and before that we had a COP … er … that took place in … er … Katowice in Poland in 2018, that was COP24. One of the big ones that everybody talks about is COP21 which was in Paris.
Jack: OK. Why was … why was the COP21 a big one?
Colm: COP21 was a big one because at the end of that there was something called the Paris Agreement. And the Paris Agreement was a commitment by ... you know … all of the countries around the world. I think it's 196 countries, to say that we are going to try to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees. That's the target and no more than 2 degrees above what they call pre-industrial levels. And it sounds like a very small amount, 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees, but actually, the science and … um … the experts are telling us that even this small change in temperature could have a dramatic effect on … on nearly all of us around the world and have an enormous effect on some people more than others.
Jack: If there was a … an agreement in COP21, what are they going to be talking about now? Are there new things to talk about? Would they be making new agreements?
Colm: Yeah, definitely. I think the Paris Agreement was really setting that … that aspiration and all of the COPs subsequently have been about finding consensus between countries on actual regulations, on initiatives, on … er … new targets, in order to meet that objective. And at the moment, you know this ... this Paris agreement now is about six years ago, the experts are saying that this is a critical time now, because if we don't start acting, then our window to meet the Paris Agreement is beginning to disappear. Because the temperatures are rising, and we only have really a relatively short space of time in order to stop carbon emissions going into the atmosphere, to reduce these greenhouse gases er … and … er … stop chopping down forests and other things that are helping to … to absorb this carbon in the atmosphere. So, there's a limited amount of time in order for us to act in order to reach those goals of the Paris agreement.
Jack: Do you think that this conference COP26 will be remembered as an important conference like COP21? Do you think there'll be a new agreement?
Colm: I think that the COP president Alok Sharma and the UK very much hope that there will be an agreement at the end of this COP. I think they want to call it the Glasgow Accord … um … and I think that they will hope to be able to say that we are on track to meet our commitments or our goals that were made at the … in Paris. And that the … the new measures and the new promises and the new decisions that countries have committed to are going to help us. To … to … to meet those targets, but that's still not a definite thing at the moment. There are still some people who think um that we're not doing enough.
Jack: I've seen the news reports on the protests outside the conference and … er … the accusations of greenwashing. Do you think that any significant progress will be made?
Colm: One of the big things that so far has come out in week one is a commitment about deforestation, to stop deforestation. The more we do to preserve and maintain the huge forests around the world and there are some big forests in Indonesia where I live, um in Brazil and many other countries. Obviously, maintaining the natural forest that we've got is a natural way of … of helping to tackle climate change.
Colm: A second one is about a commitment to reduce the use of coal power stations because coal power stations are one of the major causes of CO2 gases in the atmosphere. There are some countries like India that have made some big commitments in the last week about trying to turn to alternative power sources and renewable energy sources, but there's still some work to be done in that area.
Jack: And what have you been doing as part of your work for the British Council related to COP26?
Colm: I've been doing a lot interestingly enough … um … which has been really really interesting and rewarding, and is I think just the beginning of our work. So, about a year ago, the British Council decided that we would have a major program called the Climate Connection and, in a sense, it's not an entirely new program … um … It was a decision to look at what we already do as an international organization, in the areas that we work, and what we're good at, and how could we through our programs address climate change. That's through the arts and culture, through education, through society and through English language. So, we have projects and programs connected to climate change in all of those areas. I am not responsible for all of them, but I am responsible for one strand, which is called Climate Action in Language Education.
Jack: OK … um … So, what have you been working on in Climate Action in Language Education?
Colm: Language is a very important … um … tool for tackling global problems and for enabling sort of global conversations and dialogue and mutual understanding. That's kind of at the core of … of what we believe in as an organization. We're trying to bring together countries and make people feel closer and able to respect and understand each other and so I've been having a really interesting time leading a lot of different teams to develop initiatives to look at integrating environmental issues into English language teaching.
Jack: That does sound interesting, um can you tell us more about some of these initiatives that have been developed?
Colm: One of them is a podcast series of our own, so it's good to be on this podcast series we … we developed a podcast series called the climate connection. Um … all ten episodes are now live and they're on the British Council website and they're all about 40 minutes long and our host Chris Salton, he interviews a range of different experts in education and in English language teaching and in environmental issues to talk about this area. And in each episode we also hear from teachers from around the world from, sort of, China to South America to India to … um … Moldova in … in Eastern Europe. And … um … one of the things I wanted to say about our podcast series is that we have show notes. So, for every episode you can both read the transcript and there's some, like … extra notes for English teachers who want to explore the kind of links or resources in a bit more detail. So that's one of the initiatives.
Jack: And do you … so do you think that the … um … the listeners to this Premier Skills English podcast would enjoy these … these podcasts that you've produced?
Colm: Yeah, I think, they, look, I think they really would. One of the other exciting things about this podcast is that in every episode we were working in collaboration with the Oxford English dictionary … um … so there were partners of ours and editors from the OED, as it's called, in each episode they have about five to seven minutes where they focus on particular climate-related vocabulary and look at the kind of … the etymology of those words and where they've come from. um and not just in English but also in other languages.
Jack: And aside from the podcasts can you tell us about something else that you've been working on?
Colm: OK, so, very briefly, let me tell you what else we've got because … um … we have a MOOC right now. A massive open online course … er … it's actually running at the moment and it's for English teachers who want to learn how to integrate environmental issues into their teaching. There's about 2 000 teachers from over 100 countries on our MOOC. We developed 12 lesson plans for teachers, that they could pick up and go and use in their classrooms with their students straight away … uh … we ran a competition, a school video competition and we had 205 entries from around the world. We've just selected 10 winners and you can find the winners on our website and in each of those videos, the winning videos, you'll see a climate action project in a school … um … and so we hope that … that might inspire some more climate action projects in schools around the world. So if you're a student listening to this … er … we hope that you … maybe you're already doing something at school … um … to tackle climate change and if not, you could have a look at some of these videos and it will give you some inspiration for a climate action project of your own.
Jack: That all sounds really really interesting, we'll put some links to these projects into these videos on the page for this podcast on Premier Skills English. Thank you very much for … for that Colm. It's been really interesting.
Colm: No, it's been my pleasure Jack, and I hope everybody listening … er … will start to think a little bit more about their own climate and environmental literacy and … er … what they can do to .. to learn more about the climate challenge and … and act.
Jack: I'm … I'm sure that you have inspired lots of people. And um following this there'll be a language focus, well I'll look at some of the vocabulary you've used and there will be more resources based around this topic coming soon so, thanks again Colm
Colm: Thank you. Thanks everybody.
Jack: In today’s language focus, we’re going to look at some vocabulary that Colm used.
Rowan: We’ve picked out 8 useful words or phrases that are related to COP 26.
Jack: The first word we want to look at is conference. Listen to this:
Colm: COP26 is the united nations climate change conference it's actually climate change conference of the parties and it is a global summit that is focused really on everything all of us can do to tackle the climate crisis
Jack: A conference is an event that usually lasts a few days where people get together to discuss and share ideas about a topic. I have been to a few conferences for English teachers where people make presentations and there are special discussion groups.
Rowan: Colm also used the word summit. This is an important meeting of leaders from different countries when they get together to try to make a decision about something. So COP26 is a conference and it’s also a summit because there are political leaders from different countries.
Jack: The next phrase we want to look at is tackle the climate crisis. Listen to this:
Colm: COP26 is the united nations climate change conference that is focused really on everything all of us can do to tackle the climate crisis
Rowan: I think that everyone listening to the Premier Skills English podcast will know what the word tackle means in football. Outside of football it has a similar meaning.
Jack: To tackle something means to try to deal with something – usually something difficult. So the world leaders are meeting at COP26 to try to come up with ways to tackle the problem … to Tackle the climate crisis.
Rowan: The next phrase talks about the biggest problem or the most serious cause of the climate crisis. Listen to this:
Colm: we only have really relatively short space of time in order to ... to stop carbon emissions going into the atmosphere to reduce these greenhouse gases
Jack: Carbon is an element that is part of carbon dioxide and methane which are very important greenhouse gases. The noun emission comes from the verb emit which means to send out. So if something emits light, then light shines from it. Light bulbs emit light.
Rowan: Emissions are the things that are sent out. When you burn wood or oil or coal, carbon dioxide is created. This gas is emitted – it is sent out and enters the atmosphere.
Jack: The atmosphere is the mixture of gases that surrounds the planet. There’s oxygen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide. And when we burn wood or fossil fuels, we add to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere around us.
Rowan: The next word is deforestation. Listen to this:
Colm: One of the big things that so far has come out in week one is a commitment about deforestation to stop deforestation.
Jack: This is an easy word to describe as it just means cutting down trees in a forest to clear the forest to use the land for something else or to use the timber.
Rowan: It’s great that world leaders have agreed to stop deforestation as forests absorb carbon dioxide and are really important habitats for plants and animals.
Jack: The next word is agreement. Listen to this:
Colm: I think that the COP president Alok Sharma and the UK very much hope that there will be an agreement at the end of this COP.
Rowan: This is another easy word to explain but important vocabulary for the topic. In normal everyday language an agreement is where people share the same ideas about something.
Jack: After a meeting like COP26, an agreement is usually a formal decision that’s written up and signed by the people in the meeting, a bit like a declaration.
Rowan: The next word is slightly more advanced. The word is commitment. Listen to this:
Colm: There are some countries like India that have made some big commitments in the last week about trying to turn to alternative power sources and renewable energy sources
Jack: The noun commitment comes from the verb to commit. If you commit to doing something, it’s like a very firm promise that you can’t get out of. Often there are consequences or penalties if you don’t do something you have committed to doing.
Rowan: Sometimes, the word is used like responsibilities – if you have children, you are committed to looking after them. Having children is a big commitment.
Jack: At COP26, politicians make commitments. This means they make promises to act, to change the laws in their country and to invest money in doing things to tackle the climate crisis.
Rowan: The next phrase sounds quite complicated but it’s easy to explain. The phrase is pre-industrial levels. Listen to this:
Colm: We are going to try to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees, that's the target, and no more than 2 degrees above what they call pre-industrial levels.
Jack: Industry means the companies and processes that produce things for sale. It normally means factories. In the UK, there was an industrial revolution when advances in technology enabled factories and industry and the whole of society in the UK changed as people started working in factories.
Rowan: These factories were powered by coal so there were lots of carbon emissions. Industrialisation around the world means building factories and this has been the main cause of all the problems we are facing. When we use the word level, we are talking about the amount of something that can change. So the level of carbon in the atmosphere today is much higher than it was before industrialisation.
Jack: The average global temperature before the impact of all the greenhouse gases that we have put into the atmosphere was lower and at COP26, the world leaders want to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, that is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above what the temperatures were before industrialisation.
Rowan: The next phrase is finding consensus. Listen to this:
Colm: the Paris Agreement was really setting that … that aspiration and all of the COPs subsequently have been about finding consensus between countries
Jack: Consensus is quite advanced vocabulary, but it’s quite easy to understand. It describes an opinion or idea that is widely held, that is, that’s believed to be true by most or all people.
Rowan: If an idea is the general consensus, then the idea has some power. Often, we talk about finding a consensus or reaching a consensus, especially if there is disagreement about a topic or it’s something that people need to work together on.
Jack: In the news today, there was a story about how China and America are working together to try to reach a consensus on how to limit their carbon emissions.
Jack: We have looked at a lot of really important vocabulary today and it was great to be able to talk to Colm.
Rowan: Your task this week is to answer the following questions about climate change and the impact it’s having in your country using some of the vocabulary we’ve spoken about in the podcast?
Jack: Question 1. What’s the impact of CC in your country?
Rowan: Question 2. What are you afraid of happening in the future?
Jack: Question 3. How will climate change affect your life?
Rowan: Question 4. How will you change what you do to try to tackle the climate crisis?
Jack: Now it’s time for this week’s football phrase. We have had a suggestion from HSN from Turkey for a phrase. But I’m not sure there is an English equivalent of the phrase you suggested, HSN. I’ve chosen a phrasal verb with a similar meaning. The phrase is to **** *** somebody. This phrasal verb is used to describe a pass, usually a cross or a long pass that is really accurate and finds or ***** *** the striker or target player. This phrasal verb is common in football and quite common in regular English as well – it has a similar meaning; it means to find or recognise something among a group of similar things. You might **** someone *** in a group photo, for example.
Rowan: If you know the answer to this football phrase, leave a comment on the page for this podcast on the Premier Skills English website. If you have a football phrase that you would like us to use in the podcast, just get in touch and let us know.
Jack: Before we finish we just wanted to say that we hope you found this podcast and the vocabulary useful and we hope all of you stay fit and healthy.
Rowan: Bye for now and enjoy your football.
Vocabulary - Climate change
Before the role-play, Jack tested Rowan's knowledge of climate change vocabulary with a quiz. Do you know the vocabulary from Jack's quiz?
An interview with Colm Downes
Jack spoke to Colm Downes about the COP26 conference and the work he has been doing on the British Council's Climate Connection project. At the beginning of the interview, Jack asked Colm about COP26. The language focus was on some of the climate change related vocabulary that Colm used.
Colm told us about some of the work he's been doing as part of the Climate Connection project for the British Council.
The Climate Connection Podcast
Your task this week is to answer the following questions about climate change and the impact it’s having in your country using some of the vocabulary we’ve spoken about in the podcast?
Question 1. What’s the impact of CC in your country?
Question 2. What are you afraid of happening in the future?
Question 3. How will climate change affect your life?
Question 4. How will you change what you do to try to tackle the climate crisis?