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COP26, the Missing Majority and I

I am looking forward to seeing the Missing Majority be the ‘represented majority’ in the next COP with meaningful not tokenistic participation of young people in every decision making, climate change policy and implementation says Poonam Ghimire

Despite being accredited and invited to attend COP26 as a Youth Power Climate Rep, Poonam’s visa has not been issued. Share Poonam’s blog using #missingmajority #cop26 to help make sure her voice is heard at COP26.

“I want you to act as if our house is on fire because it is.” – Greta Thunberg

This powerful quote by climate activist Thunberg not only sums up the current global climate change emergency but also the awareness of the young generation towards it. The world is changing and the new generation is realizing their and the future generation’s rights to live on a clean, green and healthy planet.

My Climate Activism Journey 

I got the first in-depth information about climate change during high school which inspired me to take action. I had the initial understanding that deforestation caused climate change, and I decided to study forest sciences for my undergraduate studies. Soon, I became actively involved in several organizations and projects including the Restless Development Youth Power Campaign to work at the local level for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Climate Change in Nepal

Nepal is the fourth most vulnerable country to global climate change. Despite having high forest coverage and negligible emission, climate change impacts the country severely.

Nepal is facing several natural disasters, and food and water scarcity. I would like to share the two most recent disasters that caused the loss of several lives and property worth Billions of rupees.

In June 2021, the Sindhupalchowk district of Nepal faced a deadly landslide and flood due to the overflow of the Bhotekoshi river causing the death toll of more than ten people and displacing more than 200 families. This incident is said to have happened due to temperature rise in the glacial areas in the Himalayas.

In October, Nepal faced yet another disaster of floods due to unprecedented heavy rainfall. More than 77 people lost their lives and caused loss of properties including hundreds of hectares of ready to be harvested rice fields. This added to the plight of the poor farmers and ensured food insecurity for next year.

Both of these unfortunate events in Nepal resulted from climate change. Due to the rising temperatures, Nepal has been facing such plights including glacial lake outbursts. Unpredictable rainfall patterns have also been causing epidemics and food and water insecurity among others in Nepali communities.

It is important to note that these instances have directly affected the social, economic and political climate of Nepal. The population of Nepal is suffering and women and girls are much more affected by climate change.

Water scarcity due to climate change forces girls out of schools and makes life difficult for women as they are forced to fetch water from far away. Food scarcity causes parents to marry their girls at an early age resulting in early pregnancy, several births and other health complications. 

Climate decision-making through the gender lens

Women are the major risk groups during the displacement due to climate hazards. So, gender lens in decision making events like COP26 is a must to protect the social, economic and health rights of women to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

As a Next Generation Fellow at the United Nations Foundation, I along with seven other youth from around the world prepared the ‘Our Future Agenda’ report on four major themes of ‘education and skills’, ‘jobs and economic opportunities, ‘civic participation and political participation, and ‘sustainable futures’, where we highlighted not only the challenges but also the solutions for sustainable recovery of the planet after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There are many solutions for the eco-recovery of the planet with major ones being the realisation of net-zero emissions by 2050, binding commitments at the global level for climate action, preservation of half of the earth’s land and water by 2050, making green energy the ‘new normal’, more meaningful engagement of youth in climate decision making and implementation, among others.

My incomplete journey to COP26

To share the lived and seen experiences of young people due to climate change, attending COP had been a dream for me. Getting invited by Restless Development to attend COP26 as a youth representative from the Global South was a dream come true. The opportunity was a big one, especially for a young voice from Nepal being represented in the global decision-making climate change event.

Despite all our efforts, due to a delay in visa processing by the relevant agency, I could not make it to COP26 in Glasgow in-person to share the experiences with the policymakers and young leaders from around the world. With that, I became the part of the ‘Missing Majority’ that Restless Development and youth from around the world were worried about not being represented during the major decision making in COP26.

To include the ‘Missing Majority’ in climate talks is important and all host countries should manage administrative logistics at an appropriate time to ensure global inclusivity and representation. As the end of COP26 nears, I strongly appeal the following to the global leaders:

  • Make binding commitments towards climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • Keep young people and gender at the centre for climate decision making
  • Have better climate financing mechanisms to support the poorer economies suffering massive climate impacts. 

I am also looking forward to seeing the Missing Majority be the ‘represented majority’ in the next COP with meaningful not tokenistic participation of young people in every decision making, climate change policy and implementation.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Poonam Ghimire

Poonam is a 26-year-old climate activist and the Next Generation Fellow at the United Nations Foundation. She was the former Head of the International Processes Commission at the International Forestry Students Association. She is active within a number of major UN-led processes, including the COP26 and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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COP26, the Missing Majority and I

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