As I stand at Platform 2 in Newport Train Station, 10am on the 1st of November, I feel a rush of adrenaline race through my body. After two years of hard work, campaigning and planning – the moment is finally here. I take a deep breath as I step onto the train and let the gravity of what I’m about to do sink in.
I have little idea about what the next 12 days will be like but I know that for the next 12 days I will represent the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales at COP26. For the next 12 days, I will have the opportunity to be in the ‘room where it happens’ surrounded by world leaders, negotiators, delegates, NGOs and incredibly passionate activists. I also know that these 12 days are incredibly important. This is because conferences like COP provide the unique opportunity for world leaders and their representation to join together to discuss how they will put the planet and future generations at the centre of all decision making. COP26 is particularly important because as time progresses, climate change is becoming less of a hypothetical and more of a reality for millions of people across the world.
As a 17 year old from South Wales, the imposter syndrome began to set in pretty quickly as I walked towards the Blue Zone entrance the next day. What if I didn’t fit in among the men in suits? But, I quickly reminded myself of the reason I was there. As a member of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA), I wasn’t attending COP to ‘fit in’, I was attending to bring the underrepresented voice of Welsh Young People and amplify this at all levels possible. As the Chair of YCA, I was attending to promote and amplify our manifesto on the world stage with points of action from a plan to reach Zero deforestation to making ‘Climate Refugee’ a legitimate status to restoring Peatlands and holding businesses accountable. But, what grounded me the most as I passed through the security was reflecting on my reason for joining YCA: I wanted to create the change I needed to see, not just for myself, but for those across the world who have been ignored- the vulnerable in society left to fend for themselves as they face the consequences of our reckless and greedy actions.
As my time at COP progressed, there can only be one phrase to describe the experience: profoundly moving! Unfortunately, the deal produced at COP was disappointing to me – with no mention of oil and gas, and no guarantee that those who are being impacted and have the solutions on a grassroots level would be supported. Regardless, I was massively moved by the people I met and what I learnt.
From meeting the Wampis, who are indigenous people from Peru, I was able to reflect and learn that climate action isn’t a choice for some – it is the difference between life or death. I was inspired by their continued optimism and empowerment to make change. By meeting other young activists, I saw what fearless conviction and leadership looked like. By talking to the Climate Minister and First Minister of Wales, I was provided with a sense of hope at seeing those I trust to lead my country realise the gravity of the climate crisis and need to act. Despite the COP deal being underwhelming, I was massively impressed by the impact that activists can have when their government is willing to listen to them which validated my pride to be Welsh and my conviction that though we are a small nation, we are mighty.
Significantly, I ended my experience feeling more determined to be involved in making change happen then I ever have before. To combat the climate crisis, we need everyone to unite. The planet needs everyone to use their voice. The only way to make change is to understand the issue from all perspectives and so I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to use the voice you have, demand that you have a chair at the table, and work with (but hold accountable) the world leaders who have the power to act on the incentive of protecting what you love.
The climate crisis is in our hands because ultimately your voice is just as important and needed as who we consider to have the ‘power’ – please don’t be afraid to use it!
Youth Climate Ambassador for Wales