Today’s Question: The Canadian youth delegation is always a powerful and constant presence at the annual UN climate conference. How are things going so far this year, and what’s in store?
As the first week of COP 26 drew to a close, youth delegates in Glasgow were connecting and strategizing with their counterparts from across Canada and around the world—and finding that adult delegates finally get it that young people are at the conference to make a difference, not just to skip school, said Sophie Mathur, a youth climate campaigner from Sudbury, Ontario.
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“This is the time we need to continue to spread the voice of youth,” Mathur told The Energy Mix, in the latest in a series of #COP26TinyExplainers interviews. “We’ve been speaking out about how much this matters, and I know the media is definitely paying a lot more attention to what we have to say about the policies and what the politicians are talking about.”
That’s not always the way it’s been, however.
“A couple of years ago when I started my activism, I think I would have told you that, no, I did not feel heard,” she said. “But now, with Greta Thunberg and the #FridaysforFuture movement, people are taking us a lot more seriously and realize we actually care about this. We’re not just trying to skip out on school—this is something that matters to us.”
Canadian youth delegates in Glasgow are all registered as observers, with no access to the working space where negotiations take place, so “we can’t go into those meetings. We still are basically screaming for action at this point,” she said.
But “we’re still out here trying to share our voices and continuing to make an impact. Not just on the politicians, but on the [other] adults that are here, and on people who still don’t really understand that we are in a climate emergency,”
We talked to Mathur just hours after Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, estimated that the emission reduction promises delivered so far at COP 26 would bring future global warming down to 1.8°C—a far cry from the devastating 2.7° that multiple reports and agencies were warning about in the lead-up to the conference. But only if everyone meant what they said, and if everyone keeps their promises. We asked her what it would take to get decision-makers to deliver.
“We’re going to continue to put pressure on the government, especially here in Canada,” and “I really hope they follow through,” she said. “We want to see [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau and all the other politicians not just saying they’re going to take action, but that they continue to take action.”
With that endpoint that in mind, “we’re not going to just go back home when the COP ends and sit down and forget that this happened,” Mathur stressed. “We’re going to continue to protest. And we’re going to continue to spread the word about what’s happening and tell them we still want action.”
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