Climate Voices

October 31, 2021
By: Betsy Wilkening, COP26 Delegate

Elevate The Missing Voices

Today marked the first day of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland and much of the time was spent queuing in line.

The day began with a Lateral Flow Diagnostic (LFD) test that we reported online to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Don’t get overwhelmed yet by acronyms, but what can you expect from an event that is an acronym―COP26 (Conference of Parties)? After a stroll through the rainy streets of Glasgow we arrived at the SEC (Scottish Event Campus) where we provided lots of documentation, queued up, and received our Blue Zone Badges, complimentary masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.

As we were processed through the system we met people from Scotland, France, and Argentina. After a long search for someone who could answer our questions we discovered that only 18 passes were available for the thousands of observers from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to attend the high level opening plenary discussions.

This was the beginning of understanding how different COP is during the time of COVID-19, and how important it is for those of us here to represent the voices of those who are not here.

The youth voice is an important voice that we are working to elevate. My fellow delegates will report more this week about this work. During our stroll through the hall today these voices were visually represented in a few displays. The youth in Climate Changemakers are asking for climate change education and for the leaders to listen to them.

Similarly the youth in the Forest of Promises are asking for action from policy makers while committing to actions of their own.

With COVID-19 vaccine inequity many representatives of the Global South were not able to attend this year. In the afternoon, we attended an event, The Era of Injustice is Over, provided by the COP26 Coalition. The urgency of action resonated through the many speakers. Asad Remen urged that the conference should not be about the 4 C’s: Cash, Cars, Canopies and Coal, but rather the 3 T’s: Targets, Trillions, and Transformation. Young activist, Lauren McDonald, who recently called out Shell Oil and the UK government for moving forward on the Cambo Oilfield, stressed that we cannot allow new fossil fuel development to move forward if we hope to reach those targets. She stressed that “hope” is a verb and our actions and voices can enable that hope. Kevin from Kenya asked us to help represent the voices of the MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) especially those from the Global South. A contingency of indigenous representatives from many countries were welcomed with song and a Gaelic ceremony.

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There is a lot to accomplish in the next two weeks, and we will do everything we can to represent all the missing voices.

Betsy Wilkening

Betsy Wilkening is the Education Outreach Coordinator at Arizona Project WET – University of Arizona, President of Polar Educators International, and a member of Climate Generation’s Window into COP26 Delegation this November. Betsy’s hispanic roots run deep in the Sonoran Desert, and as members of her community are disproportionately affected by extreme heat, persistent drought and extreme storm events, she is passionate about empowering all to take action to build a more resilient community. Learn more about Betsy and subscribe to follow her experience at COP26.