Championing Inclusivity

In categories:  Published by:  Josh Tregale

By running Mock COP26 we are showing the world what COP26 would look like if young people were in charge. We are not merely replicating the format of COP summits, we are adapting and changing it to align with the will of the next generation of leaders – the youth. We have already made key changes to our conference to reflect the mandate of young people to build inclusive, equitable and fair systems.

From the start of planning for Mock COP26, amplifying the voices of underrepresented regions has been a key part of decision making. The Global North has far too much representation and power in international conferences like COP. The voices of indigenous peoples and of those most affected by the climate crisis in the Global South have been silenced out to comfort those responsible for the status quo. Our conference will amplify these voices and give time to hear the uncomfortable truths about the Global North’s overconsumption and neglect for the most vulnerable peoples in our world. During the high-level statements made by the youth delegation of each country there will be blocs of traditionally overrepresented countries making a combined statement. This will allow more time for delegates from the Global South and those facing the most severe impact from our changing climate. Their voices are traditionally neglected and this will allow them to highlight the impact climate change has on them and air their demand that the world takes this crisis more seriously.

Part of being inclusive is ensuring that everyone can take part. The COP26 summit would have been held over Diwali this year. For millions of people in the world these are some of the most significant days of the year. By holding an international conference over the dates for such a significant religious festival, a whole group of people are excluded from fully engaging. The initial plan for Mock COP26 was to hold it over the same dates as the postponed COP26 but to overcome this shocking neglect for cultural and religious festivals, we have moved the dates of Mock COP26 to after Diwali. Any cultural or religious days that occur during our conference have been left as rest days to ensure that no one will be forced to choose between these activities and engagement with Mock COP26. It is extremely disappointing that COP26 did not take this into account.

We have been disappointed by the lack of representation in previous COP summits. To ensure the voices of underrepresented people are heard we are inviting speakers and delegates from these groups. We are reaching out to the Global South, Indigenous communities and making sure we have female representation. COP26 is being hosted by the UK but, since our event is being held online, our volunteers and staff can be from all over the world. Our team of 18 Event Coordinator staff are from the UK, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Philippines, Japan, Costa Rica, Brazil, Canada, Australia and the Solomon Islands, and are all receiving equal pay for their time. This ensures the views and needs of different regions can be quickly and efficiently listened to and met during the planning stage. Not only are these staff from around the world but 13 out of the 18 identify as female or non-binary. As someone from the UK I am disappointed that our government plans to field an all-male team to host the COP26 talks. Women have played a hugely significant role in climate negotiations and it is females that are worst hit by the effects of climate change.

We are putting pressure on world leaders and are raising ambition for the COP26 climate talks in 2021; we demand that our leaders match the scale of the solution to the scale of the problem. Through Mock COP26, our message is clear: we the youth are no longer waiting to be given permission to speak, but are taking the floor ourselves. In doing so we are showing the world not only what the ambitions of the youth are – but also our commitment to inclusivity, equality and representation.