Real Climate Ambition: A Message to World Leaders from young people

Young people all over the world have been leading the way in calling for more climate ambition and far-reaching global commitments to hold global temperature rises below 1.5°c. The lack of action globally is leading to growing disaffection amongst young people and threatening the realisation of their vision for a just and sustainable world.

Today, 12th December, the UK, France and the UN will co-host the Climate Ambition Summit on the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement. The summit will provide a platform for international commitments on mitigation, adaptation and financing to meet the promises of the Paris Agreement. It is a major step on the road to the Climate Change Conference (COP)26 next year.

COP26 in Glasgow next year will be a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. So what ambition do young people want to see from their national leaders and politicians ahead of COP26? What outcomes do young people hope for at COP26 itself? Where will we be in 5 years time?

We asked young climate activists around the world, here’s what they had to say.👇

Sarah McArthur – COP Organiser, UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) 🇬🇧

Q: What do you want to see from the UK as hosts of COP26 in Glasgow next year?

I want to see the UK actively advancing the inclusivity and accessibility of decision making on climate change. Climate justice must be at the heart of every decision made at COP26, and the only way that can happen is by including the contributions of the most marginalised voices. As hosts, the UK has a critical role to play here in setting an example for other global North countries.

The UK Government must bring more than just boasts and vague promises to COP26. It needs to show it is serious about its commitment to climate justice through drastically reducing UK emissions, whilst offering financial and technical support to countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. It needs to take responsibility for the UK’s contribution to climate change and ensure that it leads the way in honouring the 1.5°c commitment made in Paris. The recent UK aid budget cuts seriously undermines this commitment and must urgently be reinstated.

Q: COP26 comes 5 years after the Paris agreement, what do you want to see happen in the 5 years following COP26? 

The UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) want COP26 to be the beginning of tangible steps being taken towards achieving global climate justice. We are calling on the UK Government to develop a strong position on Loss and Damage and to use this to champion progress. You can read more about this in our Youth Demands for Climate Justice.

Any hopes we may have for UK leadership on climate justice are being shattered by not having a diverse COP leadership team. The currently all-male team is a catastrophic failure to strengthen minority voices and effectively tackle the climate crisis. That is why UKYCC urges the UK Government to appoint more women to the team and to lead the way in creating a legacy from COP26 that has the mainstreaming of gender equality, across all areas of climate change policy, at its heart. 

This is my road to holding temperature rises below 1.5°c. You can build your own, and explore the impact different policies could have on climate crisis with this interesting climate tool. A key decision in my scenario is committing to highly increased energy efficiency in transport, buildings and industry. This would deliver the twin benefits of reducing emissions whilst driving down fuel poverty. Placing high taxes on fossil fuels whilst providing subsidies to renewables sends a clear signal to industry that the government is serious on delivering an energy transition. 

Jevanic Henry – Youth Power Panel member. 🇱🇨

Jevanic Henry

Q: What ambition do you want to see from world leaders ahead of COP26?

As countries update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), it is an opportune time for countries to raise their ambitions on emissions pledges and drive towards net-zero,  especially amongst the highest global carbon-emitters. We need increased efforts to diversify stakeholder engagement in climate actions initiatives, with greater focus on supporting youth led interventions. 

I would also like to see increased focus on leveraging private sector finances to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts specifically in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as my native country St Lucia.And a renewed commitment by the developed world towards supporting SIDS particularly in adaptation efforts both in terms of accessing finance and technical capacity.Increasing cooperation amongst SIDS, which can use their collective power in advocating for developed countries to adhere to their climate pledges, may be a route to achieving this.

It is also essential that the inclusion of indigenous people’s knowledge in climate resilience efforts are recoginsed. Ultimately, as COP President, the UK must take the lead in pushing for a reduction in global emissions and a thrust towards renewable energy particularly by the G20.

Q: What role can civil society organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) play in supporting young people to influence decision makers?

Civil society organisations and NGOs can use their convening powers to leverage partnerships, aimed at enhancing the overall influence and impact of youth led actions. They must also remain relevant and dynamic, whilst prioritising constant dialogue and engagement with governments to facilitate an increased level of influence in the decision-making process.

Iris Zhan. MockCOP USA Volunteer. 🇺🇸

Q: What can world leaders learn from the MockCOP Declaration ahead of COP26 next year?

World leaders can learn the urgent importance of holding richer countries accountable. These countries must recognise they have done the most damage whilst those who have contributed the least are suffering the most. World leaders must recognise that in order to create true climate justice we must decolonise. 

Mass climate education is essential for ensuring the youth of today and tomorrow are informed and well equipped. It is crucial world leaders enact policies that act on climate science by creating climate resilient communities and livelihoods.

Q: What lessons from the hosting of MockCOP can the UK COP Presidency learn for Glasgow 2021?

The UK COP Presidency can take on board our ambitious yet realistic treaty for Glasgow 2021. The youth are not going to settle for another international climate conference that does nothing and is only a charade of fake progress. Mock COP has shown that real progress can be made and that we will hold COP accountable to our treaty. Mock COP has shown the huge difference that is made when youth, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), and Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) are centred in conversations, narratives and decision making. We will not settle for youth, BIPOC, and MAPA voices being silenced at COP. Our voices deserve to be heard and taken seriously.

Let us know what you think about world leader’s Climate Ambitions…

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Feature Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash


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Real Climate Ambition: A Message to World Leaders from young people

by wearerestless Reading time: 5 min