As a youth climate activist, my feelings towards COP27, and COP’s in general are very complicated.
In early October of 2022, I was granted media accreditation to attend COP27 for my podcast, The Hopeful Environmentalist. But, as an environmental podcaster and a youth activist who is also in graduate school, funding to attend COP27 and my rare chronic condition became barriers between me and attending the conference in-person. Unfortunately, due to these barriers, I was unable to attend COP27 in-person in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, although I was fortunate to have access to virtual negotiations and meetings while also receiving updates and press releases.
From the virtual events and press conferences that I have been able to attend, my thoughts are very clear. The promises and pledges need to turn to action, now.
I am 23 years old, which means there has been 22 COPs since I was born. Yet climate change has rapidly worsened since then. Why is this? This is because of the blatant disregard for our home and all of our planet’s inhabitants by world leaders, especially those in the global north. It’s because of the continued promise of a better tomorrow without clear actions to obtain these promises. As a result of these shortcomings, we are suffering and the damages are not being felt equally, as people in the global south and marginalized communities are facing the consequences of climate change to a greater extent.
In one of the virtual COP27 meetings I attended, I was disappointed at the greenwashing terminology that was being thrown around and the continued discussion of pledges. These types of promises and pledges usually contain non-binding words, instead of binding actions.
Countries in the global south deserve funding from the global north to adapt to and mitigate climate catastrophes. In one of the sessions, the United States announced over $150 million to assist Africa in adapting to climate change. The world has seen pledges similar to this in the past, so now it is on myself and the rest of the people living in the United States to hold our government accountable for its promises and pledges to the global south.
With all of that said, COPs need to be more inclusive for people, especially for youth, marginalized communities, and chronically ill/disabled people. Without these crucial voices, how are we supposed to get to an equitable future? The online COP27 system is not only extremely confusing, but it is almost impossible to engage in crucial conversations and network with leaders and other activists. This leads to a disconnect between the in-person participants and the virtual participants who don’t get the opportunity to attend due to many different barriers.
My hope is that after COP comes to a close, that our pledges and promises become those of action, because as the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator”.
Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.
Taylor Ganis is the host and founder of the Hopeful Environmentalist Podcast and a masters student studying Environmentalist Science and Policy. She is a climate activist who also advocates for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities (including herself) to have space in the climate movement. Taylor is also on the U.S. Youth Advisory Council for the United Nations Ocean Decade, and a fellow at Our Climate.