Sophie MacGrain is a ONE Youth Ambassador from the UK.
I had been looking forward to the COP26 climate conference in the lead-up to the global event. Each day I’d watch Glasgow begin to welcome a community of people from across the world, who were excited to come together to save the planet.
I couldn’t wait to share the city I loved with my fellow Youth Ambassadors, people I’d only ever met and engaged with on a screen. But a lot of people who lived in Glasgow didn’t feel the same excitement as I did. Many locals felt completely detached from COP26, and as though they were being disregarded in favour of delegates attending the conference.
As a student in Glasgow, I related to how they were feeling. So I set out to experience COP26 not just as an activist passionate about seeing climate action, but as a local who was curious as to how worthwhile all of it was.
Here’s what happened.
What happened at COP26
I wasn’t sure at all what to expect from the public portion of COP26, the Green Zone, which featured exhibitions, talks, and more. But I was pleasantly surprised when we first entered the Green Zone to be greeted with lots of smiling faces at different stalls eager to talk to attendees about their causes and their relation to climate change.
From this experience, one thing that stuck with me was how indigenous communities are particularly affected by climate change. They experience loss of land and resources, which leads to discrimination and unemployment.
Thankfully, at the Green Zone, we were able to take some immediate action. We wrote a message of support to those communities to let them know we’re aware of their situation and brought it to the attention of global governments to encourage them to prioritise this issue.
We also attended a number of panel discussions where we heard from a variety of speakers about their first-hand experiences campaigning for climate action.
What was particularly surprising, however, was the collective eagerness from people around the world who came to participate in COP26. It was truly inspiring to hear from a variety of representatives who had traveled from near and far to share why they were passionate about climate action.
For our final event, my fellow Youth Ambassadors and I walked through the rainy streets of Glasgow to demonstrate our solidarity for climate action. As more marchers filled the streets and joined us, I felt as if I were a part of something bigger. As the rain continued to fall, it felt like a small inconvenience in comparison to the bigger movement we were a part of.
Lessons from COP26
From attending COP26, I learned that when people are able to connect with each other over shared causes, there is a shared feeling of great hope and pride.
Now when I walk the streets of Glasgow, I remember the weeks when our city was flooded not just with rain, but with a passion to see real change for a better future for ourselves and for those who come after us.,
But COP26 will only be a true success if governments keep to their pledges and fulfill the climate action we urgently begged them to take. But the solidarity seen at COP26 to save our world carries on, and that united power to show our leaders that climate change matters cannot be undermined.