‘We’re Not Going to Be Placated.’ Young Activists at COP26 Are Refusing to Settle

You won’t fool the children of the revolution. T-Rex, a British glamrock band that was almost successful in 1972, issued this warning. Five yearsExxon was the first to receive a report regarding climate change from fossil fuels before it became a major oil company. It has never felt so relevant at COP26.

Today’s young people are coming of age just as the climate that allowed previous generations to thrive on this planet has begun to visibly break down—but just before our last chance to stop it becoming unlivable slips away. Youth activists have a unique moral authority in U.N. climate summits because of this clear injustice. they’re celebrated with a “youth day,” invited to speak on panels and praised in speech after speech by world leaders for giving the rest of us hope. Since the 2019 school strike movement led by Greta Thunberg (a Swedish teenage), has gained worldwide attention, it’s only gotten more.
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Continue reading: Vulnerable Countries Haven’t Had Equal Access to COP26. Are They able to influence the talks?

But increasingly, those activists are saying it’s all meaningless. “Leaders keep praising young people for standing up and protesting,” Vanessa NakateIn an interview with TIME, a 24-year-old Ugandan youth activist said that he was speaking out about the COP26 launch of a documentary about young activists. “But saving the world needs decisions from the leaders.”

Many young people fear their participation at the summit will be seen as tokenistic. “I feel lost, like I’m here as an ornament or to tell reporters what gives me hope over and over and over,” 16-year-old U.S. activist Alexandria Villaseñor tweetedShe claimed she had been prevented from attending negotiations on Thursday. Other report During discussions, young people of colour have been silenced.

Tens of thousands mostly young people protested today in Glasgow against the U.N.’s failure to achieve concrete change. Signs were carried by them reading: “Dinnae dawdle, climate justice now!” (using the Scottish form of don’t) and “We want to die of old age,” while singing barbed criticism of certain prime ministers. Earlier in the week, Swedish 18-year-old Greta Thunberg voiced her frustration at a small gathering of protesters near the summit site: “No more of whatever the f*ck they’re doing in there!”

Fridays For Future COP26 Scotland March
Jeff J Mitchell/—Getty ImagesFridays For Future demonstrations take place in Glasgow (Scotland) on November 5, 2021.

To be fair to the summit attendees, many of them have worked for years to advance climate change action. They’ve had wins: including the 2015 Paris agreement. They are now at week’s end net zero pledgesFrom every major emitter there are diplomatic agreements to decrease emissionsMethane emissionsEnd deforestation and cut off coal financeMore.

But many worry that this week’s onslaught of headline-grabbing announcements about the future serve only to distract from the fact that little in the present is changing: in many countries the on-the-ground work to decarbonize is barely underway, while governments are still approving and subsidizing fossil fuel projects against scientific advice. Taken together, the following national commitments are The U.N. analyzed Thursday’s dataAccording to the study, global greenhouse gas emission would increase by 13.7% over 2010 levels in 2030. Scientists say that they have to drop by 45% before then to avoid a catastrophic average temperature rise of 1.5C.

Youth activists call this state of affairs “climate delay.”; Almost no mainstream political or business leader is denying that climate change is a problem, and almost all are promising to cut emissions—but not right now, in a few years, if someone else does it first. It’s harder to spot and a much more insidious threat to action.

Calling out climate delay has become the center of young people’s role at COP26. Mikaela, a student in medicine, will be visiting Glasgow to raise awareness. her lawsuit against the U.K. government—a self-proclaimed climate leader—over what she calls unlawful oil and gas subsidies. Youth activists use panel appearances for their cause. reframe carbon offsets It is a controversial means for rich countries of delaying their own emissions reductions. Some other issues have complicated the lives of officials at this summit. You must confront themThey pose for photographs with contradictory policy.

“It’s really important that this conference isn’t just used as a basically PR event, which it currently seems like it is,” Joycelyn Longdon, a 24-year-old PHD student and activist focused on climate justice education, told me yesterday on her way up to COP26 from LondonIt is. Something that is different about Gen Z is that we’re not going to be placated by platitudes or things that are comfortable [for leaders to do]. We have this sort of tenacity to keep pushing and pushing and pushing for better.”

That’s not to discount the work that older people have done and continue to do on climate, and all other kinds of activism, Longdon says. “Youth and youth action is really more of a mindset—of not settling.” In every generation, some people keep that mindset as they age, and some lose it. With the chaos of climate change set to shape their lives, today’s young people might be the first to buck that trend.


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