Inside and outside climate talks, youths urge faster action

GLASGOW -- Both inside and outside the United Nations climate talks , young people are telling world leaders to get on top of things. They say that concrete steps to prevent catastrophic warming cannot wait.

Inside and outside climate talks, youths urge faster action

GLASGOW -- Both inside and outside the United Nations climate talks , young people are telling world leaders to get on top of things. They say that concrete steps to prevent catastrophic warming cannot wait.

Ashley Lashley (22-year-old Barbardos native) was thinking about how to convey the urgency of carbon trading during a session. As she listened as other delegates discussed the complex and difficult topic that has puzzled negotiators over six years, she remembered a phrase: "blah-blah–blah."

This is the phrase Greta Thunberg, a prominent teenager climate activist, has begun repeating in an attempt to express her opinions on the speed of government action to reduce global warming. To press the negotiators at the conference, Thunberg's Fridays for Future movement organized a demonstration outside. It attracted tens to thousands of people.

The session Lashley attended droning on inside. She fears that her fellow negotiators can get too caught up in the minutiae and lose sight on the bigger picture. They must keep emissions below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), which could lead to the destruction of some vulnerable countries.

Lashley, one the few young participants to negotiations, thought on Friday, "Can't it guys just wrap it all up?"

Umuhoza Grace Ineza (25), a Rwandan negotiator, stated that she sees some sessions go by and hears others say, "Ooh! Let's try that way or that way and then we can make a decision next time." Ineza said she wanted to ask them if climate change mitigation is important for the future generation.

She said, "In my mind it's like these people have kids?"

AJ Convertino, Evan Gonzalez and University of Michigan graduate student observer said that they were more impatient than ever but more hopeful because they can see the right things happening even though it is slow.

Friday was the U.N. conference's day dedicated to youth. The schedule did not reflect this, however: the news conference that featured officials discussing youth was attended by no younger than 30 people, while the lunchtime events included John Kerry, 77, the U.S. climate ambassador, and Al Gore, former U.S. vice president.

Magali Cho Lin Wing (17), a UNICEF U.K. member, said that "when I arrived at COP26 I could only see white middle aged men in suits." At a press conference, the Youth Advisory Board said. "And I thought, 'Hold onto! Is this a climate conference? Or a corporate event?" This is what you were looking for? To exchange business cards?

Except in rare cases, young people claim they are not being heard.

It's our future. "Our future is being negotiated and we don’t have a place at the table," Julia Horchos (20-year-old Boston College student), who is present at the conference but has not yet participated in negotiating sessions.

They also know that it is important to be in the same room as it happens.

"It's my life," Horchos said. "It's my responsibility to take the lead."

Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International Executive Director, gave credit to conference participants and activists below 30.

Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International Executive Director, stated that "youth have brought critical urgency into the talks." "They have stressed what is at stake in the talks for young people if 1.5 C is not closed."

The worry about the future outside of the negotiations was the same but the way it was expressed was quite different. The Fridays for Future protest in Glasgow's Kelvingrove park saw mostly young activists carrying banners that read "I have to clean up my mess, why don’t you clean up yours?" or "Stop climate crime."

Greta Thunberg spoke at Friday's rally outside of the conference venue. She called the U.N. Climate talks in Glasgow "a failure" and accused leaders of deliberately creating loopholes in rules and misleading images of their countries’ emissions.

The 18-year old activist from Sweden said that "World leaders are clearly scared of the truth, but no matter what they try, it is impossible for them to escape it." "They can't ignore the scientific consensus and, above all, they can't ignore us - the people, even their children."

Fridays For Future was one of several demonstrations that were held around the globe Friday and Saturday to coincide with the talks.

Some protestors accused negotiators in greenwashing their country's failures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They proclaimed policies that sound great but don't adequately prevent dangerous temperature rises over the next decade.

Brianna Fruean is a 23-year old activist who grew-up in Samoa, an island nation in the Pacific that is vulnerable to rising sea levels.

She said, "I have seen floods enter our homes and I have scooped up the mud."

Fruean was the first to speak on the stage, also known as COP26. She spoke about the impacts of climate change in her country and gave her views to leaders.

She said, "I feel like my eyes are being seen." "I'll know if I have been heard at the end of COP."

Natalia Gomez (24 years old) from Costa Rica has participated in negotiating sessions as well as cheered for the protestors. She said that youths are making important points and getting attention, and putting pressure onto leaders. Youths inside are trying to make things happen. She is constantly unsure which is more important.

"I don't know," Gomez said.

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