11.19.21 - Post-COP Reflections from Elise
After attending COP 26, I have realized why local action matters so much. International negotiations are slow. It is hard to come to an agreement between parties, and as we have seen, even harder to make countries follow through on their commitments.
However, at the local level the process can move much faster, and go more smoothly. As a local activist and a member of the Lake Placid Climate Smart Community task force, I have seen government from both sides– I have been the one to submit a petition, and at other times the one sifting through paperwork to prove our community is working towards climate actions. Despite these two different situations, both were the result of activists and concerned citizens speaking to their government, and asking them to make a change.
At COP 26, the process is more jumbled. There are thousands of people trying to get their demands met, predetermined goals each negotiator comes to the table with, and hundreds of different groups of people that need to be heard. But even after completing important agreements, not all needed changes will be made.
This is why the local level is so important. At the local level, you can work with organizations to come up with specific resolutions that you would like passed. It is easier to make sure all voices are heard in the decision-making process, and easier to make sure various aspects of the problem are addressed.
Government, and democracy, could not function the way it does without the local level. But to make sure our voices are heard, we first need to take action. It can be intimidating at first, especially when you don’t know where to start. But by connecting with an organization, making a quick phone call to a representative, creating an art installation to get your point across, writing an op-ed, or any number of things, you open the door to conversation. Especially in small towns in the Adirondacks, we have the benefit of being easily heard at local government meetings. We need to use that, and take the first step in creating a conversation around why climate change is important. COP 26 might be where goals are set, but the local level is where change is truly made.
11.15.21 - That's a Wrap - COP26 Concludes
The delegates are all home safe and sound, and are managing quick transitions back to school and work. They are all reeling from their experience and have lots of reflecting and processing to do! We’ll continue to post here as they gather their thoughts on their experience at COP26. For now, here’s Emma and Witter sharing some of the final outcomes from COP and reflecting on the sanctioned protest on the final day.
11.12.21 - Day 12: Last Day Reflections
Gina has a conversation with Mhairi McCann, youth participant at COP26. She is the founder of Youth Stem 2030, an organization focused on empowering youth to advance the UN’s sustainable development goals. Listen as Mhairi shares her thoughts on the outcomes of COP26
11.12.21 - Day 12: Protests Develop on the Last Day of COP26
On the last day of COP26, many observers joined protests developing in the streets of Glasgow. Protesters gathered in response to a lack of accessibility at this COP, and to raise awareness that negotiation outcomes do not match what science tells us is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Emma gives us a tour around the developing protests
11.11.21 - Day 11: Last Minute Livestream!
Early on Thursday morning, Wild Center delegates found out they were offered a spot for a livestream in the COP26 production studios. Youth delegates rose to the challenge and staged an incredible livestream – you don’t want to miss it! Check out the recording at our Livestream page. Here are the delegates preparing for their session
11.10.21 - Day 10: Reflections on Power & Testimony from Island Nations
Emma reflects on the hearing powerful testimony from representatives of Island Nations during yesterday’s negotiations
Witter considers what aspects of COP have the most power to bring meaningful outcomes
11.10.21 - Day 10: Meet the Negotiation Ninjas
Witter, Emma, and Gina take a crack at explaining the complexities of the negotiations they witnessed today
11.10.21 - Day 10: More Insight into COP Negotiations
Gina and Witter say hello from a YOUNGO morning briefing and share what they are looking forward to today
Emma checks in with some insight after observing a negotiation today
11.09.21 - Day 9: Witter Explains Today's Negotiations
Want to get a peak into what it’s like observing an official negotiation at COP? Hear Witter explain his experience today
11.09.21 - Day 9: Gender Day at COP26
Hear from Emma on why she’s excited for Gender Day at COP26
Also, Witter had a chance to speak with Ramon Cruz, President of the Sierra Club. Here’s his message to the Youth Climate Summit Network
11.08.21 - Day 8: Interview with Runa Khan
Emma had a chance to interview Runa Khan, founder of the Bangladesh-based organization Friendship. Hear Runa’s thoughts on what needs to change about the COP structure
11.08.21 - Day 8: Emma & Witter's First Day at COP26
Emma gives an update on what’s in store for Day 8
11.07.21 - Day 7: A Much Needed Rest Day
Much to everyone’s relief, COP26 activities and negotiations take a break on Sunday. Andrew had a few thoughts on the importance of rest in climate change work
The delegates also had a chance to do some sightseeing around Edinburgh
11.06.21 - Day 6: Youth Delegates Emma and Witter Arrive in Glasgow
Emma and Witter arrived in Scotland on Saturday and immediately went to check out the massive protests happening throughout Glasgow. Meet Emma and Witter on their first video, and hear what they had to say after they experienced the protest
11.06.21 - Day 6: Andrew's Reflections on the Power of Intergenerational Partnerships
Today, Andrew and Elise spoke on a panel “Youth Amplify Impact through Local and Global Connections” at the Water Pavilion.
Andrew was inspired to reflect on the power of intergenerational partnerships after the panel:
“The overall purpose of ACE is climate engagement at all levels of society by encouraging partnerships across sectors, demographics, and all other barriers that typically silo climate work. So engaging and empowering young people, and fostering intergenerational partnerships, should be central to that work. My quick thoughts on intergenerational partnerships based on participating in the “Youth Amplify Impact through Local and Global Connections” at the Water Pavilion are as follows.
- Framing: Describing young people as victims or vulnerable populations, regardless of the truth of this, is unproductive because it paints a picture of helpless young people who are unable to take action in the present or affect their future. Instead, we should frame young people as active agents of change who have significant potential (and experience) making their communities better places.
- Benefits: Intergenerational partnerships have the potential to increase capacity for climate action, create long-term and more resilient collaborations, implement more creative solutions, and build relationships through sharing knowledge, hopes, and perspectives.
- Advice to adults and decision-makers: Don’t tokenize young people. Don’t invite one (or a small group) of young people to participate in a one-time event, be on a panel, or do a social media takeover to check off a demographic checklist. Instead, listen to young people, engage them in your decision making process, act on their recommendations, and give them agency over their ideas — all over the long-term. This is how you can facilitate lasting, robust, and meaningful spaces for young people to both share their perspectives and see them put into action.
- Advice to young people: You, just as you are, have all the passions, interests, experiences, and skills you need to make a meaningful impact on your community. If you already know this and are engaged in climate work, do your friends know this too? How can we continue to engage more young people and empower them to take climate action?”
11.05.21 - Day 5: Inside COP vs. the Streets of Glasgow
The Blue Zone was a starkly different place than the streets of Glasgow today, and delegates from The Wild Center experienced both. Inside the Blue Zone, Youth & Public Empowerment Day continued with panels, speakers, and more negotiations.
Delegates witnessed a Indigenous Perspectives Panel at the US Climate Action Center, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Secretary Haaland emphasized the Department of the Interior’s recognition that frontline communities know what solutions they need, and that the US wants to consult directly with local communities more and more.
Al Gore spoke about the most recent impacts of climate change, including an increase in tick-borne diseases, extreme flooding, and heat waves.
Outside the venue, the youth-led international organization Fridays for the Future organized a massive protest calling on world leaders to take climate action seriously and accept the uncomfortable reality of rapidly transitioning off fossil fuels. Greta Thunberg addressed the crowd
The energy and outrage of the crowd was dramatically different than the official COP26 events and proceedings. Stay tuned for more reflections from delegates on their experiences.
11.05.21 - Day 5: Youth & Public Empowerment Day!
Silas gives a rundown of what’s happening on Youth & Public Empowerment Day, both in and outside of the COP venue
Andrew and Elise prepare for their panel “Youth Amplify Impact through Local and Global Connections” at the Water Pavilion
11.04.21 - Andrew's Reflections on Day 4
11.04.21 - Energy Day
As someone who is particularly interested in renewable energy policy, Silas is attending as many events as possible today: Energy Day at COP26. Here’s a few of his experiences and reflections from the day.
International Energy Agency press conference. With the new pledges made so far at COP, especially those relating to methane, we’d be on track for 1.8 degrees of warming according to the IEA. This is great news! Previously the commitments of countries around the world would not get us below 2 degrees Celsius in warming.
Watching the Presidential Plenary on the Energy Transition. Below are remarks from U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. She highlighted the need for clean and reliable power, and she announced the Net Zero World Initiative. All members of the panel emphasized that communities displaced by a transition away from coal need to be supported, and Granholm thanked the members of the Energy Transition Council for thinking about the human beings that will champion the energy transition.
11.04.21 - Day 4: A Quick Breather
Anyone who has experienced a COP can tell you it is next-level exhausting. The days are long, and packed to the brim with speaking obligations, long lines, meeting new people, and a constant onslaught of new information to process and make meaningful for audiences back home. Today, a few of the delegates took a break and went to check out the Glasgow Science Center. Participating fully in COP is a marathon, not a sprint, and spending some time out of the Blue Zone is important for staying grounded. At the Glasgow Science Center, delegates spent some time imagining what role museums can play in their communities to help facilitate climate action.
11.03.21 - Interview with Ugandan Youth Activist
Silas had a chance to speak with Rose Kobusinge, leader of the African Youth4Climate organization, on her work at COP26
11.03.21 - Day 3 Starts with a Press Conference
Day 3 of COP26 started bright and early for the delegate team with a press conference celebrating the updated Youth Climate Summit Toolkit and the approaching 100th Youth Climate Summit!
11.02.21 - Day 2 of the World Leaders Summit at COP26
Check out below as Silas gives a recap of Day 1 and a little preview for what’s in store for Day 2. To view the livestream links that Silas references, visit our COP26 Livestream page.
11.01.21 - Reflections on Day 1 from Silas
The official goals of COP26 are to keep temperatures to 1.5 degree C of warming, address loss and damage from climate impacts, and mobilize climate finance. This COP is thought of as a major follow-up to the landmark Paris Agreement in 2016 where every nation submitted an individual commitment to climate action. Now, we need nations to make additional commitments, and agree on rules for enforcing one another’s commitments. Action for Climate Empowerment is one of the main negotiation points the Wild Center is following this week. Action for Climate Empowerment refers to all programs that align with public awareness and education about climate. On the table in Glasgow is the UN commitment to ACE as an official work program (aka area of focus for their staff) to promote across all parties of the Paris Agreement.
On the ground: I’ve noticed a large emphasis on local communities. The organizations running side events and the nations showcasing their efforts in the pavilions are emphasizing climate success stories in individual cities and towns. While it is easy to frame COP as diplomats in a room arguing over rules, there is a massive community of people with local success stories looking to share their best practices, and connect with other organizations in order to collaborate and scale their impact, with or without the politicians in the rooms next door.
Circling back to the official targets, the hundreds of people in the civil society space are connected to the negotiating process through the constituencies. Constituencies are the organized bodies representing various communities and/or perspectives. They facilitate direct meetings with negotiators and deliver statements at the plenary sessions. All of us are blown away by the dedication within the Youth constituency (YOUNGO). They have dozens of youth on a team dedicated solely to taking notes during all the negotiations. This team reports back to working groups who are simultaneously writing policy proposals. The working groups deliver policy proposals to negotiators in 1:1 meetings throughout the two weeks of the conference. These meetings can happen in an instant! The youth delegates inside the negotiating rooms, and those waiting outside, have been able to pull aside national representatives and essentially deliver elevator pitches on what the youth want to see at COP. I would also emphasize that the constituencies (or at least YOUNGO) have a unified set of priorities, it isn’t about one organization getting ahead of another. It has become clear to me that so much of COP actually happens before COP, whether that is coordination across the constituencies, negotiators strategizing, or organizations like the Wild Center planning several panels and partner events to showcase our work.
11.01.21 - COP26 is Underway!
COP26 is here! Youth delegates continue to arrive in Scotland and hit the ground running. The first day was a mix of logistics and jumping right into both virtual and in-person presentations. Delegates picked up badges to enter the Blue Zone, the area of COP where the formal negotiations take place. As 1 of only 2 museums to receive badges for the Blue Zone, delegates from The Wild Center are extremely privileged to have access to this space. Here’s a look inside what Day 1 of COP looked like.
First look inside the Blue Zone
Behind the scenes of a virtual presentation to a group of museums convened by the Smithsonian with Elise, Andrew, and Jen. They spoke about the The Wild Center’s model for climate action and youth engagement
Silas speaks on a panel in the Blue Zone about the need to scale up Youth Climate Summits and their impact in order to meet the goals of COP26
Andrew and Jen experience an electric bus for the first time!
Gina gives us a recap of how she’s feeling after a busy Day 1
10.31.21 - Conference of Youth Wraps Up
Today marks the last day of the Conference of Youth. Elise and I were excited to get to know two youth delegates from the organization Climate Generation – here we are enjoying some rare sunshine on the last day
We even got to see youth representatives hand the official Statement of Youth to the COP26 president, Alok Sharma
Finally, here are a few thoughts on the Conference of Youth and how it relates to Youth Climate Summits, more to come! – Andrew
10.29.21 - Elise's Reflections from Day 1 of the Conference of Youth
Today was the first day of COY! The Conference of Youth was very interesting– it’s housed at the University of Strathclyde, so while seeing delegates from all over the world we also got to see a snapshot of what European college was like.
In between attending the conference and preparing for upcoming events, I’ve also gotten to see some of the city. It’s really cool to see all the new and old architecture mixed in together, and the murals on buildings are always fun to look at and find.
During the first two sessions of the conference I met several delegates from different places, ranging from South Africa, to the Maldives, to the Netherlands and Germany. It’s really great to see that while every country faces different challenges, we are all working towards a common goal in our own way, whether that’s looking into solutions through an economic, technological, educational, environmental justice, or interdisciplinary lens.
I think my favorite thing about the conference so far is the focus on people. We aren’t just focusing on technology or the degrees of warming and what that means for natural ecosystems, we are talking about the effects climate change has on communities and people all over the world in order to demand effective, systemic, and adaptive solutions and build resilience. – Elise
10.28.21 - The Conference of Youth is Underway
Elise and Andrew have arrived in Scotland and jumped right into the Conference of Youth (COY)! Check back later to hear some of their takeaways from the first day.
10.21.21 - Elodie's Reflections on the TED Countdown Summit
I feel so grateful to have attended the TED Countdown Summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had meaningful conversations with artists, youth activists. policy makers, scientists, business leaders, and educators, and I began to see our work fitting together to create a web of climate solutions.
Through incredible TED talks and breakthrough sessions, I began to see clearly that we have the solutions, money, people, technology, and infrastructure to solve the climate crisis. I also saw that many people are afraid to truly commit to using them. In order to change this, we need to create the political and social conditions for the solutions at our finger tips to be spread far and wide. For this to happen, we need to center justice and deconstruct the oppressive systems that are holding us back and hurting our people and planet. The Countdown Summit showed me that art, love, activism, mindfulness, and youth voice are a few ways to create the necessary conditions for systemic change. -Elodie
10.17.2021 - Teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh's monastics
I had the opportunity to take part in a wonderful session, The Power of Presence: Transformational Speaking and Listening with Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics. -Elodie
10.16.2021 - How will climate change impact Nessy, the Loch Ness Monster?
10.14.2021 - "It always seems impossible until it's done." -Nelson Mandela
What an inspiring message from Al Gore. -Elodie
10.13.2021 - Sessions are underway
Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a session “Climate and Racial Justice: Learning from US Social Movements.” It’s amazing to meet other young people making a difference in their communities. And shout out to great new friends, Vic Barrett, a Climate Justice Activist with Power Shift Network, and Jennifer Gonzalez, the ACE Director of Storytelling! -Elodie
10.12.2021 - You never know who you'll run into.
Look who I ran into! Thanks again to Rainn Wilson for taking a couple minutes to send a message to the youth of the Adirondacks and beyond. -Elodie
10.12.2021 - Day 1!
Day 1 of TEDx Countdown has officially begun and I couldn’t be more excited. We found the building, got our badges and are ready to be inspire. Let’s do this. -Elodie
10.11.2021 - Exploring Old Town Edinburgh
Before the official kick-off to TEDx Countdown, we got an opportunity to explore Old Town Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Castle sets upon an extinct volcano. How cool! – Jen
10.10.2021 - We're on our way.
Jen and Elodie here! We’re checking in from the Newark airport as we embark on our trip to Edinburgh for TEDx Countdown. See you in Scotland!