GLASSGOW, Scotland (NWN) – The generation of young people who will inherit a warmer future is telling the generation that took carbon pollution to clean up its mess – both inside and outside the UN climate talks.
Or better yet, we do it ourselves, many say.
“This is our future. Our future is being negotiated, and we don’t have a seat at the table,” said Julia Horchos, a 20-year-old Boston College student.
Horchos was one of several young people inside the venue in Glasgow, Scotland, where government leaders, industry executives and activists are discussing how the world can avoid catastrophic climate change. But in his supervisory capacity, he is still a few dozen yards from the offices where those decisions are being made.
There are more youth than ever walking down the hall in conversation. This is in addition to thousands of young protesters carrying signs outside for a few blocks from the fence-off pavilion at the Friday for Future rally. The youth are being observed and celebrated. But they say that they are not being heard.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several other leaders have credited youth activism for restarting the world’s fight to curb climate change. The theme of the UN Friday was, in fact, youth participation, with leaders talking about how important young people are to keeping the world from getting too hot and wild from extreme weather.
But even on a day dedicated to young people, highlights of the afternoon were a speech by former US Vice President Al Gore, 73, and a news conference from US climate envoy John Kerry, 77.
In his several days going into the sessions, Horchos said there was only one time for audience members like him to talk — and it was a special youth program. Sure, 21-year-old Diana Bunge of Boston College got to hear from three CEOs of multinational corporations, and met with Horchos Kerry, but she didn’t get a chance to speak up for her future.
“When I arrived at COP26, I could only see white middle-aged men in suits,” Magali Cho Lin Wing, a 17-year-old member of the UNICEF UK Youth Advisory Board, told a press event. “And I thought, ‘Wait, is this a climate convention or a corporate event?’ Is this what you came for? To swap business cards?”
Still, they know it’s important to be at least near the room where it all happens.
“This is my life,” said Horchos. “It’s definitely my responsibility to step up.”
The concern about the future outside the conversation was the same, but the way it was expressed was different.
In a Glaslow Park, mostly young activists chanted “I have to clean up my mess, why don’t you clean up your mess?” Like there were banners with slogans. and “stop climate crimes.”
The protests were part of a series of protests that were being held around the world on Friday and Saturday, to coincide with talks in Scotland.
Some at the rally accused negotiators of “greenwashing” their country’s failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions by trumpeting policies that sound good but won’t be enough to stop dangerous temperature rise in the coming decades. .
“We are here as a civil society to give them the message that ‘enough is enough’,” said Valentina Ruiz, an 18-year-old Brazilian student.
Brianna Frauen, a 23-year-old activist from Samoa, a Pacific island nation particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and cyclones, said: “My biggest fear is losing my country.”
“I’ve seen the flood go into our homes, and I’ve pulled the mud out,” she said.
Frauen was given the stage at the start of the conference, known as COP26, where he told leaders about the effects of climate change already being felt in their country.
“I feel like I’m being watched,” she said. “I’ll know if I’ve been heard by the end of COP.”
https://apnews.com/hub/climate . Follow up on NWN’s climate coverage. Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. NWN is solely responsible for all content.