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COP26 Day 6: The young find their voice

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By DAC Beachcroft


Published 08 November 2021


Friday at COP26 was an opportunity for the youth of the world to have their say on the actions that need to be taken to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change.

Inside the hall, the platform was given to YOUNGO, the official Children’s and Youth constituency of the UN’s climate change programme, in a session called “Unifying for Change: Global Youth voice at COP26”.

YOUNGO presented the Global Youth Position statement, representing the views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from across the world. The statement presented their priorities for action on climate finance, mobility and transportation, through to wildlife conservation.

Inevitably, it was the voices of young people outside the hall that made the greatest impact. A co-ordinated “Fridays for Future” saw school strikes around the world and thousands of young people pour onto the streets to voice their frustrations at what they see as the limited progress being made inside the Glasgow conference halls.

It was teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg who captured the mood of the youth protests when she spoke at the end of a march through Glasgow.

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” she said.

“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

Over the weekend, it was not just young people that took to the streets in major cities around the world. Generations marched in unity in their tens of thousands to demand more from world leaders as COP26 enters its final week.

The huge numbers taking part in the protest cannot be ignored, says Duncan Strachan, a Partner and social unrest lead in DACB’s London office.

“Saturday was the COP26 Coalition’s Global Day of Action for climate justice. With an estimated 300 events taking place worldwide, the coalition put the number of protesters in Glasgow at more than 100,000. This shows the social investment in this issue, with one protester being quoted as saying that ‘climate injustice is related to social injustice’, a sentiment that featured on many banners at protests around the world.”

While Saturday’s large protests were peaceful, we have seen with Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain that they have the potential to be very disruptive.

“These types of protest are only likely to become more common and more sizeable. Businesses and insurers must make sure they take these threats seriously and consider whether their insurance arrangements would provide adequate protection against property damage and business interruption resulting from protests and civil commotion”, said Strachan.

There was progress in the hall on some of the educational themes discussed during the day with 23 countries putting forward national climate education pledges, ranging from decarbonising the school sector to developing school resources.

The UK’s Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, announced a wide-ranging package of measures to move the fight against climate change into the classroom with a model science curriculum, which will be in place by 2023, to teach children about nature and their impact on the world around them.

Children and young people will also be encouraged to get involved in the natural world by increasing biodiversity in the grounds of their nursery, school or college. They will be able to upload their data onto a virtual National Education Nature Park which will allow them to track progress against other schools.

He also announced a new national Climate Leaders Award with gold, silver and bronze levels similar to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Whether this will be sufficient to inspire those young people on the streets to engage with today’s national and world leaders will be a key test.