By Betty Ottosson and Linda Kivi – PUSH Sweden delegation at COP26
(This blog post was previously published in Swedish on the blog of Klimatriksdagen, you can find the original post here)
At this very moment, when we are writing this post, we are tired and sitting at a café outside Rotterdam Central, waiting for the next train that would take us to Amsterdam. From there we will take a night bus to Copenhagen. Altogether, our journey will take over 1.5 days from Glasgow to Malmö / Lund and we will spend two whole nights on a bus. The fact that Boris Johnson took a private jet between London and Glasgow to attend the World Leaders Summit at the beginning of COP26 is almost laughable.
We have spent the week in Glasgow as observers at COP26 together with other young people from PUSH Sweden. The two of us, Linda Kivi and Betty Ottosson, are now on our way home, and a couple of other people from the organisation will take over and attend the second week. In this post, we will share our observations and reflections from the first week of the UN Climate Summit COP26.
Since COP26 was the first international climate conference for both of us, the first days were, to say the least, overwhelming, with a lot to take in. Fortunately, the first day of the Summit was relatively calm and it mainly consisted of opening speeches from various bodies and countries. Sara Nyberg, the only one in our delegation who will stay in Glasgow during both of the weeks, and who has extensive experience from previous international climate conferences, gave the opening speech from the global youth civil society together with Temilade Salami.
Days two and three were then marked by the World Leaders Summit (WLS), where many of the world’s heads of states gathered to set the tone for the next two weeks of the climate negotiations. Among other things, the WLS made promises to stop deforestation, although without sufficiently concrete proposals on how it should be done. Due to the high-security measures taken during the WLS, our ability to move anywhere in the area was limited, and we had to follow the ”regular” negotiations (i.e. those that take place throughout the COP) online instead of attending the meetings in person. Frustrated and unaware of what the rest of the week would look like, we did our best to follow the negotiations and listen to what world leaders had to say from our computers.
When the world leaders then left Glasgow, we finally had access to the entire meeting area and had the opportunity to listen to the negotiations inside the rooms. Beyond following the negotiations, there are various other things to do in the area, e.g. a large space with pavilions where different countries and organisations hold seminars and workshops.
What we found most meaningful, however, was to meet and work with young people from all over the world. We did this through YOUNGO, which is an umbrella organisation for young people within the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) who are the ones who arrange the COPs. Together with other young people within YOUNGO, one can be a part of different working groups by jointly following a specific issue regarding the negotiations and thus being able to put more pressure on the decision-makers.
Another example of how we young people worked together was to plan a meeting with the Head of Delegation of the European Commission. At the meeting, we got the opportunity to ask questions and voice our concerns. Even though we were not completely satisfied with the answers, we want to believe that our message was taken into account and that the Head of Delegation will bring it with him into the negotiations.
The theme of our last day was “Youth and Public Empowerment Day”, which consisted of e.g. handing over the Global Youth Statement. The Statement includes the demands of young people on the negotiations, written by thousands of young people from all over the world and signed by over 40,000 young people. It was handed over to, among others, the Secretary-General of the UNFCCC, Patricia Espinosa, and Alok Sharma, President of COP26.
After a very intense week with little sleep, we are going home with various thoughts and reflections. First of all, we would like to mention the highly obvious inequalities regarding the summit. COP26 is one of the most unequally represented climate conferences ever held. This is largely due to the unfair distribution of vaccines, which means that there were mostly representatives from the Global North at the summit. This is problematic, as the people from the Global South are being the hardest hit by climate change, despite having contributed the least to it, and therefore should have a strong voice in the negotiations. Furthermore, groups of indigenous peoples are excluded in the decision-making processes on e.g. land use and nature conservation, which is worrying because they are not only highly exposed to climate change but also protect approximately 80% of the earth’s biodiversity.
Another reflection we make is based on our irritation and despair. Several times during the week, we have heard decision-makers talk about the young civil society, thanking us for our hard work and asking us to hold them accountable. This makes us angry as it is not our job to have to hold adult decision-makers responsible for problems that we have not created. It is our future that is in their hands and we hope and want to believe that they take our demands seriously!
However, we would like to end this post by saying that we feel hopeful, too. By following the negotiations, we got the impression that they are moving forward on many issues, and we hope that the political decisions to be made next week will lead to constructive commitments. We also feel strengthened and uplifted by the global youth civil society that is working incredibly hard together to be heard and taken seriously. We are going home frustrated but also hopeful and are going to follow the next week’s results from home.