At COP 25, Young People Had the Force With Them

Resembling fearless and determined Jedi warriors, the young participants at the UN Climate Conference this year made the meeting markedly different from those of the past just by their very presence — hundreds of students and student activists came from around the globe and they were everywhere On Wednesday they even took over the meeting briefly, flooding the COP stage, to deliver a message about the need for the Parties to have a greater sense of urgency in their work to reach consensus on the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Why This Matters:  The students are a constant reminder to the leaders here that the future is literally watching them.  The young people have masterfully used a simple and clear set of messages — that the countries here are failing and must be more ambitious, the countries must act with a greater sense of urgency because the science is clear, and the young people will not be ignored.  Greta Thunberg was the most visible to those outside the meeting, but it was actually hard to get a glimpse of her in person here.  That, however, was not a problem because everywhere the delegates and attendees turned outside their cloistered meeting rooms, they saw the faces of hundreds of other young people.  These young people were not afraid to speak their minds — I (Monica) saw them in action — asking hard questions of the adult speakers at every side event, taking to social media to make their case to the world, and participating in dozens of panels themselves. They are inspiring and imploring us to take bold action.  “We don’t have to wait.  We can start the change right now.  We the people.”  Well said, Greta.

Grabbing Center Stage

Greta Thunberg drew bigger crowds and more cameras than any of the older star participants like Harrison Ford and John Kerry.  She gave a very compelling speech to the highest level representatives of the nations here — it was full of “truth to power” zingers like “almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”  A second youth activist, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye of Uganda, also spoke — hoping to knock the participants out of their comfort zones. “I am the voice of dying children, misplaced women, and people suffering at the hands of the climate crisis created by rich countries,” she told the audience.

Things then got really exciting when a group of students forcibly took the COP stage — something no one had ever attempted to do before.  A climate activist caught it all on video — the young people who were with Fridays for Future walked onto the stage and sat down, chanting “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”   Seeing the sit-in, Bill McKibben tweeted, “Time for negotiators to face the people whose lives they are negotiating away.”

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