Monday, November 8, 2021

Wild Center COP26 update from a youth delegate


The Wild Center has sent a 9-person delegation to Scotland for COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, as well as pre-COP26 events. The Wild Center’s delegates will have a front-row seat as representatives from 197 countries seek solutions to mitigate ongoing effects of climate change.

Here is an update from Day 1 from Silas Swanson. Silas is studying earth and environmental engineering and philosophy at Columbia University, where he is a senior. He is the founder and head coordinator for the Columbia Youth Climate Summit, and a member of the Youth Climate Program’s Advisory Board. Silas has also worked as a research assistant at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center. He also served as president of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association, and is a former student mentor for the Green Schools Alliance.

Pictured here: Silas speaks on a panel in the Blue Zone about the need to scale up Youth Climate Summits and their impact in order to meet the goals of COP26


The official goals of COP26 are to keep temperatures to 1.5 degree C of warming, address loss and damage from climate impacts, and mobilize climate finance. This COP is thought of as a major follow-up to the landmark Paris Agreement in 2016 where every nation submitted an individual commitment to climate action. Now, we need nations to make additional commitments, and agree on rules for enforcing one another’s commitments. Action for Climate Empowerment is one of the main negotiation points the Wild Center is following this week. Action for Climate Empowerment refers to all programs that align with public awareness and education about climate. On the table in Glasgow is the UN commitment to ACE as an official work program (aka area of focus for their staff) to promote across all parties of the Paris Agreement.

cop 26On the ground: I’ve noticed a large emphasis on local communities. The organizations running side events and the nations showcasing their efforts in the pavilions are emphasizing climate success stories in individual cities and towns. While it is easy to frame COP as diplomats in a room arguing over rules, there is a massive community of people with local success stories looking to share their best practices, and connect with other organizations in order to collaborate and scale their impact, with or without the politicians in the rooms next door.

Circling back to the official targets, the hundreds of people in the civil society space are connected to the negotiating process through the constituencies. Constituencies are the organized bodies representing various communities and/or perspectives. They facilitate direct meetings with negotiators and deliver statements at the plenary sessions. All of us are blown away by the dedication within the Youth constituency (YOUNGO). They have dozens of youth on a team dedicated solely to taking notes during all the negotiations. This team reports back to working groups who are simultaneously writing policy proposals. The working groups deliver policy proposals to negotiators in 1:1 meetings throughout the two weeks of the conference. These meetings can happen in an instant! The youth delegates inside the negotiating rooms, and those waiting outside, have been able to pull aside national representatives and essentially deliver elevator pitches on what the youth want to see at COP. I would also emphasize that the constituencies (or at least YOUNGO) have a unified set of priorities, it isn’t about one organization getting ahead of another. It has become clear to me that so much of COP actually happens before COP, whether that is coordination across the constituencies, negotiators strategizing, or organizations like the Wild Center planning several panels and partner events to showcase our work.

The Wild Center invites you to learn more about COP26, our delegation and The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program.

Photos courtesy of The Wild Center

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4 Responses

  1. louis curth says:

    In reading this report, what jumps out at me are Silas’ words; “All of us are blown away by the dedication within the Youth constituency (YOUNGO)”. His observation causes me to wonder how these enthusiastic young people will react when they come back home and are reminded that all their effort and dedication has not – and will not – change the cynicism, the skepticism and the indifference shown by their elders toward year after year and conference after conference of unmet climate goals.?

    Sadly, I’m afraid that the alarming projections of climate disaster, runaway pollution, and mass species extinction, which my generation helped to create and now chooses ignore, will be dearly paid for by all future generations of life on earth. For that I am truly sorry.

  2. louis curth says:

    And a day later, Almanack readers and commenters have spoken loud and clear with their silence in response to yesterday’s report from Silas and the Wild Center’s youth delegation who are over there in Glasgow cutting their activist teeth on behalf of climate action.

    You were right Melissa, and I was wrong. Existential climate change is just not Adirondacky enough to elicit the interest and reams of heartfelt comments from Almanack readers like the ones that appear regularly in response to other topics.

    The irony of it all is that our young people still cling to hope that change is possible, and that they might still be able to convince their elders, to exert their power and privilege to support the young people rather than just give them the silent treatment.

  3. Jim Wood says:

    It is extremely gratifying to read about YOUNGO. As the 74 year old coordinator of the Sodus Climate Smart Communities Task Force in Upstate NY, it is exciting to see informed activists influencing policy at COP26 for many reasons not the least of which is to replace old activists like me. Keep the GO in YOUNGO!

    • louis curth says:

      Hooray! Another old-timey activist has joined the fray. I’m elated Jim that you, and also, my old friend Mary Thill, in her current Almanack article, are showing that there are indeed people who want to help our young people save this wonderful planet earth.

      Now if we could just get our elected Republicans (my former party) to end their stonewalling, and and stop putting their selfish ambitions ahead of America’s democracy, we could all start working together , right here and right now, to save the planet and restore the nature that we hold dear for the sake of the world’s future generations.

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