For all the talk of bin strikes and delegate queues, COP26 is on.

We’re halfway through, world leaders have departed and negotiators have been getting on with the serious business of forging agreements, targets and commitments.

It’s easy to forget that it is numbered 26 for a reason: because there’s been 25 previous meetings held since 1995. That’s a lot of talking, with rather less actual walking.

But as easy as it is to dismiss, the talking needs to happen. To get two countries to agree on something is difficult; to get virtually the entire world to agree on something so complex is a gargantuan undertaking.

When it comes to talking climate change, we’ve often heard phrases such as “one minute to midnight” and “last chance saloon” (though this doesn’t mean they aren’t still true).

Host and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson - never known to shy away from a bit of bombast and a pithy turn of phrase – went particularly heavy on the metaphors in COP’s first week.

We’ve had alliteration (almost) – “coal, cash, cars, trees”.

There’ve been football puns: “the score is 5-1 down in humanity vs climate change. We have pulled a goal back and are going into extra time”.

And for the movie buffs, a bit of James Bond: "The clock on the doomsday device is still ticking but we have got a bomb disposal team on site and they are starting to snip the wires.”

Domestic hacks lap up these short, easy, fun lines, spoken as they are by an ex-journalist. For many, they draw attention to a debate they may otherwise feel excluded from, as my colleague Isobel Stanley pointed out last week.

But the lack of gravitas makes a loud statement of its own. They are seen and heard alongside the domestic flight duty cut in the recent Budget, plans for the new Cambo oil field and Cumbrian coal mine, past mocking of climate change, the lack of disabled venue access, or - most heinous of all - sitting mask-less next to certified national treasure Sir David Attenborough.

It’s hard not to conclude the talk is more for domestic political gain, rather than the longer haul of saving the planet, as Robert Peston has observed.

Business - including many we work with here at Camargue, whether in mineral products, housing retrofit, construction or renewable energy – are taking climate change incredibly seriously and doing hard, important work to reduce or eliminate their carbon impacts. But they need to continue to see politicians place the same importance to it and not just cash in politically on the media attention.

Of course, actions count far more than the words associated with them. But if the words spoken at COP26 are to count, they need to be truly meaningful.

Mike Cheshire headshot
Mike Cheshire is an account director at Camargue