During the past week, I had the privilege to listen to several hours of inspiring and thought-provoking speeches and panel discussions from fellow youth. Now it is my turn to share some of my learnings with you.
We need cultural change
During Mock COP26 it has become very clear that climate change is not purely a scientific or technical problem. Climate change is also very much a human problem. Let me explain.
Amanda Power (UK) explores in her speech the toxic progress narrative, which has been prevalent in human societies for 5 000 years. This narrative celebrates domestication and extraction of nature and abuse of people with less power to press for so-called progress as things to be proud of. The progress narrative still prevails today in natural resource exploitation and the disregard with which marginalized communities like indigenous peoples are treated.
Similarly, Abigael Kima (Kenya) frames the top environmental problems as very human: “The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy. To solve these problems we need cultural change.”
These very human ways of thinking described by Power and Kima elevate humans above nature and thus set us apart. David Mwabila (Zambia) has a proposition that can rebuild the connection: nature-centric solution. Nature-centric solutions do not disregard humans but rather place humans back in our righteous place as apart of nature. As Mwabila describes: “We need to start seeing humans as part of an ecosystem that needs to be restored.”
Giving voice to marginalized peoples
On the first day of Mock COP26, Phoebe Hanson (UK) talks about elevating marginalized voices: “If we do not give our power to those who need it, we cannot call ourselves climate activists.”
This principle has been beautifully demonstrated at Mock COP26 by giving people from the Global South more space and time. This is why I would also like to take the time and highlight some of the speakers from the global south and their perspectives on how the Global North could best support the Global South in the prevailing climate emergency. To sum it up, the best support is a combination of financing, leveraging local knowledge, and capacity building.
Mwabila highlights the need to finance grass-roots initiatives. Providing finance only from government to government poses a risk especially in countries with high corruption levels. Another important point raised by the policy panel was that funding should not be given only as loans but also as grants.
Loss and damage, White Saviorism
Adding on the ideas of Mwabila, Sameelul Huq (Bangladesh) raises the question of loss and damage funding. Climate change is already causing significant damage in countries that have the least historical blame for accelerating climate change. These vulnerable countries are unable to deal with losses by themselves. However, rich and powerful states are unwilling to engage in discussion on loss and damage funding. We as youth need to raise our voice to get loss and damage discussion of the agenda of COP26.
Besides financing, Mwabila talks about the dangers of imposing solutions on people. White saviorism is not a flattering way to go about helping vulnerable communities. Instead, the Global North must listen to what are the local problems and then work together with locals to find solutions.
Finally, the policy panel highlighted that the global north should support the global south in building technical capacities needed to create and implement solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Joint stories through climate education
A very central topic at Mock COP26 has been climate education. Youth seems to be very unanimous in demanding climate education that is integrated at all educational levels and in all subjects. Julian Lo Curlo (Denmark) also highlights the importance of planning climate education locally with students and teachers.
However, I feel that the most thought-provoking perspective for me came from Mwabila. We also need to make sure climate education highlights global perspectives because this is a shared problem. Climate education must give voice to marginalized perspectives. Done correctly, climate education could be a way to build common understanding and write shared stories that bring humanity together.
Message to world leaders
Us youth have immense reserves of expertise, wisdom, and motivation to work for a better world. This enthusiasm of ours should be leveraged to protect our future. I hope that all states will include resourceful young people in their delegations to COP26.
Mock COP26 Delegate from Finland
Finnish Youth delegate for climate change