On November 1st and 2nd, 2021, I had the privilege of traveling to COP26 in Glasgow with my partner, Kibibi (who took the pictures of me in this post). COP26 was the 26th gathering of the Conference of Parties on climate change, and it was seen as a chance to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees celsius of warming alive (the goal outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report). The COP26 Conference in Glasgow was a gathering of delegates from countries all over the world as well as observer organizations and corporations in the Blue Zone. There was also an area open to the public called the Green Zone, and I’ll be talking about my experiences there as well as some general reflections on the themes of COP26.
I was really excited to go to COP26 in early November to meet and hear from so many climate activists and policymakers. When we arrived, we immediately talked to the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) where we were given the red “Feminist Climate Justice” masks.
In fact, feminist climate justice was one of the themes that came up during our visit to the Green Zone. Feminist activists talked about the importance of centering women and gender in addressing climate change.
In addition to promoting feminism and action on climate change, there was a panel we went to on Indigenous knowledge and climate change in Finland. Indigenous people on the panel talked about the need for the United Nations and other international organizations to safeguard Indigenous access to land and sea. The panel mentioned that this is also an environmental justice issue because indigenous people are denied the right to their ancestral land. In this way, there were also many discussions around not only action on climate change, but also on how to make this action just and equitable.
The third talk that we went to was the UN Global Citizens Assembly on Climate Change. It consisted of people from all over the world talking about how climate change had affected their lives and what to do about it. Climate activist Vanessa Nakate and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland also spoke at the event. The assembly members and activists talked about how action on climate change is urgently needed and how this action needs to be inclusive and diverse. The citizens assembly’s goal was to bring to the decision-making table people who have traditionally been excluded from it. It also showcased the fact that action on climate change needs to be global and involve people from all different socio-economic backgrounds and places.
The theme that I took away from these three talks and from speaking to activists at COP26 was that climate change is happening now and action is urgently needed. Climate change is not an issue for future generations to address; instead, it requires immediate action, especially from today’s youth. Activist Greta Thunberg spoke of the importance of youth leadership during a protest at COP26 stating, “Our leaders are not leading. This is what leadership looks like.”
After hearing about the themes discussed at COP26, the Common Energy Impact Team is well positioned to combine youth leadership with climate action. Community solar is an equitable way to increase access to renewables, and the Common Energy Impact Team is leading this just transition. Even if the news coming out of COP26 has been mixed (such as the world not being on track for 1.5 degrees celsius), it is important to continue taking action on climate change and promoting youth leadership.