COP27 experience and the way forward as a young climate advocate

January 12, 2023 09:43
Photo: Reuters

So what sort of experience is COP27? It was a hustling 2-week meeting. The week 1 negotiation was slow for national delegates, and there was a more delightful moment when the negotiation got extended and finally got a deal on loss and damage in the end. Nonetheless, the loss and damage agreement hasn’t gotten a concrete plan on how the finance will be provided and where the fund come from. I remain skeptical about how the loss and damage agreement will bring a true impact.

How to engage in COP?

This is my first COP, as said, the atmosphere is very busy and hustling. Youth delegates including myself wanted to make the most of the opportunity to join negotiations and arrange meetings with party delegates, international NGOs, and UN observers, to amplify the voices of the youth. Youth delegates paid a lot of attention to building a network with the counties from the Global South and indigenous communities who need the most support from developed cities including Hong Kong.

How to build and strengthen the network?

For the first time, COP allocated a pavilion for youth and children to empower and indulge them in climate action. There are many panel discussions and activities organized by global young activists. The Children and Youth Pavilion becomes a platform for youths to voice out their opinions. We organized an event there called “What does Climate Justice mean to Asia-Pacific youths?” that featured 8 representatives from the Asia-Pacific region to share their thoughts on the local climate crisis. They highlighted the topic of climate justice in the region and how youths can be one of the potential solutions in local and global contexts. Also, the pavilion provided informal conversation opportunities with high-level leaders at the summit when they pass by and on their way to the national pavilions.

How do youth and civil society play a bigger role in future COP?

I think youths are crucial to attend these conferences although there are critics about young voices aren’t heard in the formal negotiations. To me, the youth’s presence in COP unites the voices of the future generation across the world. I am grateful to be connected with Sofia from OllasSostenibles (Sustainable Pots) who works on a more resilient and empowered society towards food security in Peru, and [email protected] team who started a youth-led campaign for climate-friendly food at COP. Knowing their stories firsthand motivates me to work harder on addressing the climate urgency.

A bit of light from the summit

There’s a particularly inspiring moment in a panel discussion called “Designing food systems resilience in a warming world for global security”, which is held in the Food System Pavilion. The panelists from international NGOs and food tech companies shared “How both global and regional solutions can lessen risks, increase supply chain stability, and improve livelihoods”. In Q&A, a young female farmer, Bella from Guinea, pointed out “Where we are at now is emergency. Her uncle’s cows are dying because of the extreme weather. The speed has to be accelerated.” I felt her strong emotions, courage, and determination, to make the world leaders accountable to act fast.

How Hong Kong youth can play a bigger role in our city in climate actions?

I think Hong Kong youths can start by raising their own awareness of climate issues. CarbonCare InnoLab has put tremendous effort into climate education for different stakeholders in the community, exemplified by their Community Dialogues, Local Conference of Youth Hong Kong (LCOY HK), and Climate Advocacy Training for Youths (CATY). Young people can equip essential knowledge and network through environmental groups. Hong Kong youth delegates plan on strengthening Hong Kong climate education by utilizing the global climate advocates network we built in COP27. Finding allies is important because individuals may easily be defeated by eco-anxiety and injustice.

Lastly, stay optimistic and reach out to the community, and turn public attention into actions. Climate change is the first priority. If someone thinks climate change is not urgent, tell them “try to count bank notes when you hold your breath”. Transmitting the sense of urgency is the key to more impactful storytelling in order to mobilise more people to join climate action.

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Focusing on food systems, urban resilience, as well as climate justice, the writer is one of the CarbonCare InnoLab youth delegates to COP27.