GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – A generation of young people who will inherit a warmer future are telling the generation that caused carbon pollution to clean up the mess.
But they fear that this message is not getting through.
“This is our future. Our future is being discussed and we are not sitting at the negotiating table, ”said Julia Horchos, 20, a Boston College student.
Young people are attending talks in Glasgow, Scotland in unprecedented numbers, and world leaders believe their activism has helped revitalize negotiations aimed at preventing catastrophic climate change.
READ MORE: Young people are optimistic that there is time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change
But even among those inside the venue, almost everyone is here as observers, like Horcho – outside the rooms where real decisions are made.
“I urge all leaders and decision-makers to heed the calls of young people, to reflect this in (…) negotiations and, of course, in the actions taken internally by individual governments,” said Alok Sharma, British official in talks.
However, on a youth engagement day, the highlights of the afternoon were a speech by 73-year-old former US Vice President Al Gore and a press conference by 77-year-old John Kerry, the US climate envoy.
Tens of thousands of people, most of them under 30, have made it clear that they are afraid to be seen – and even noted – but not heard.
In the few days of attending the sessions, Horchos said, only one had time for audience members like her to speak, and it was a special youth event. Of course, 21-year-old Diana Bunge, also from Boston College, heard from three CEOs of multinationals and Horchos got to know Kerry, but they were unable to substantiate their future.
“When I arrived at COP26, I could only see middle-aged white men in suits,” Magali Cho Lin Wing, 17, a member of the UNICEF UK Youth Advisory Board, said at a press event. “And I thought, ‘Wait, is this a climate conference or some kind of corporate event? “Is this what you came for? Change your business cards? “
However, they know that it is important to be at least close to the room where all this is happening.
“This is my life,” Horchos said. “It is definitely my responsibility to take a step forward.”
Outside of the negotiations, the concern was the same, but it was expressed differently.
At Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow, mostly young activists carried posters with slogans such as “I have to sort out my mess, why don’t you deal with yours?” and Stop Climate Crime.
The Friday for the Future protest was part of a series of demonstrations around the world on Friday and Saturday to coincide with talks in Scotland.
Some rally participants accused the negotiators of “plunging” into their country’s failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions by promulgating policies that sound good but will not do enough to prevent dangerous temperature increases in the coming decades.
“We are here as civil society to send them the message that ‘enough is enough,’” said Valentina Ruas, an 18-year-old student from Brazil.
Brianna Frouen, a 23-year-old activist from Samoa, a low-lying Pacific island nation that is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and cyclones, said: “My biggest fear is losing my country.”
“I saw the floods hit our homes and scooped up the dirt,” she said.
Fruan was given the stage at the start of the conference, known as COP26, where she told leaders about the impacts of climate change that are already being felt in her country.
“I feel like I’m being seen,” she said. “I will know if I will be heard before the end of the COP.”