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Ahead of the 2021 UN climate summit in Glasgow that begins on Sunday, young people from Ontario’s Waterloo region say they’re looking forward to concrete action from the dozens of world leaders who will be at COP26.
Members of Eastwood Collegiate’s IMPACT Environment Club spoke with CBC K-W ahead of the nearly two-week conference of the parties summit. The high school’s environmental projects and initiatives are run through the club, as well as the Grade 12 Environmental Studies program.
“I would really like to see our leaders step up and sort of, as they should, lead the way in making a more sustainable life for us as a community and as a global community,” Tatem Benninger said.
“I just really want our leaders to take the leadership and do the right thing.”
The primary objective of COP26 is to nudge the world as low as possible within the target band of 1.5 C, which was established under the Paris agreement.
The 1.5 C target is considered the safest climate landing zone the world might still reach, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a slip of even half a degree would substantially increase the risks.
I think it’s going to take all of us to make change and have it be permanent and effective.– Tatem Benninger
Benninger said the momentum being built in the lead-up to the conference should not end in Glasgow.
“We have a tendency, especially us, as the youth of this world to post about something on social media and then forget about it in a week … this is the future of our whole world, like this is the future of humanity,” she said.
- Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: [email protected]. Your input helps inform our coverage.
“We can argue about anything we want, but if we don’t have a planet to live on, then we have nothing. We can’t just blame one generation for this, and we can’t put it all on one generation because we as students, we’re not the ones in power yet, we’re not signing these treaties, and I think it’s going to take all of us to make change and have it be permanent and effective.”
Climate change ‘not a trend’
Sinara Shaikh also spoke about “this tendency” among youth to make certain topics, like climate change, a trend.
“We like to hype things up and then eventually the hype dies down and we just forget about it,” Shaikh said.
“Those that … continue to care, and then those that don’t, they just, they’re like, ‘OK, that hypes over, like, we don’t care anymore,’ basically.
“This is one of those scenarios and situations that I hope that does not happen, because it’s not a trend. It’s not something that we should just hype and forget about. It’s something that we should be thinking about continuously, doing research on it and trying to find solutions. I hope that our generation takes this more seriously and we participate in certain actions that are put out.”
Youth want action, not just words
In late September, Canadian young people were among the about 400 delegates from around the world at a summit in Milan. One student told The Current that “bold and immediate action” on climate issues is needed, and not just words.
Mackenzie Johnston and others with the IMPACT Environment Club echoed that sentiment.
Johnston said she wants people to realize climate change isn’t a problem of the future.
“It’s happening right now … [there are] forest fires, heat waves that are happening in Canada due to climate change … things are happening right now, and I think that we need to be aware … this isn’t something that is going to affect us in 30, 40 years,” Johnston said.
“I also think it’s really important that people recognize what is being done. You know, change isn’t impossible. For example, Norway, they actually just stated that they will be no longer using gas-powered cars as of April next year. So, I think that that’s incredible because obviously they’re way ahead of Canada, but it’s showing it’s an example of how change can be made and that, you know, all is not lost.”
Johnston believes a lot of people “can feel overwhelmed or get anxiety when talking about climate change or talking about solving it because it’s such a huge problem. But actions can be taken, and I think that Canada does need to step up and take those actions.”
Sydney Farrell agrees with Johnston on the need for Canada to step up.
“It is extremely important to me that Canada takes stronger actions to meet climate policies regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as they’re lagging behind many other countries in the world,” Farrell said.
“Canada has been feeling the impact of climate change with deadly heat waves and devastating forest fires on the West Coast, and the Arctic sea levels continue to rise. So, I believe people should notice even the little things around them that they can see and strive to change it,” Farrell said.
Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: [email protected]. Your input helps inform our coverage.