The UN’s climate change conference, COP26, should have concluded in Glasgow this week. But, as with so many events in 2020, Covid-19 had other plans. World leaders postponed the event by a year, sparking concern among young people that pushing any decisive action on environmental issues back by another year means another 12 months lost. After all, it is the young whose lives stand to be most affected by any decisions made when the world’s politicians convene.
So they decided to do it themselves.
“There are people dying, there are people losing their livelihoods, and they are not being heard,” said 19-year-old Phoebe Hanson, a politics student and event co-ordinator for Mock COP26, an alternative event organised online by campaign groups and young activists. “If there’s even a chance that Mock COP26 will change that, it’s worth doing. And it will demonstrate that we, as young people, know and care enough to be included meaningfully.”
Highlighting the human effect of global warming is key to make change happen with urgency, Hanson said. The bushfires that devastated parts of Australia at the beginning of the year made the climate crisis a major talking point, but when Covid-19 began to spread, it was largely dropped. The Mock COP26 organisers are trying to reignite that conversation.
High-level Statement from Bangladesh #COP26 has postponed this year but climate actions are not. Through @MockCOP26, our message is clear: we the youth are no longer waiting to be given permission to speak, but are taking the floor ourselves. @FFFinBD#ForTheYouthByTheYouthpic.twitter.com/VvI9VF4nuG
— Sohanur Rahman (@SohanBMYP) November 22, 2020
More than 200 staff and volunteers from 52 countries, all aged under 30, have come together to make MockCOP26 a reality. Bringing together around 350 youth delegates from around the globe, the ten-day event is set to showcase what can be achieved when climate talks are brought out into the open – and switched-on young people get to lead the conversation.