Mock COP26: Youth activists raise their voices

Young climate activists are staging ‘Mock COP26’ to drive climate action and challenge world leaders to do better.

What would COP26 look like if it was run by young people? Youth climate organisers are answering this question with Mock COP26, a virtual and inclusive alternative to the now-postponed COP26.

A banner reading 'FOR THE YOUTH BY THE YOUTH on a purple background, next to a cut-out photo of activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan at a climate strike.

Beginning Thursday, more than 350 young delegates from 150 countries will come together online for two weeks to demand more action on climate change from world leaders. In the month when  COP26 was due to take place in Glasgow, young climate activists are taking the opportunity to show the world what would happen if young people ran the show.

Mock COP26 is borne of young people’s increasing frustration at years of inaction from global leaders on the climate crisis, exacerbated by the postponement of COP26 until November 2021. The virtual alternative to COP26 is being coordinated by a team of 18 students from 12 different countries, supported by educational charity Students Organising for Sustainability.

Pauline Owiti, Mock COP26 organiser, Kenya, said: “I believe young people are a major resource for development and key agents for change. The involvement of young people in decision making should be a priority, as we have the power to solve the challenges we face in the world. Yet we are often sidelined. With Mock COP26 we have the opportunity to contribute something meaningful to society and change the perception of youth leadership.” 

Empowering youth

Mock COP26 will equip and empower youth around the world to engage their political leaders on climate targets and will culminate in a powerful statement outlining what leaders should agree to at COP26 – and what young people of the world should do in the absence of sufficient global ambition.

Environmental law charity ClientEarth will support the students throughout the conference, to develop the final statement into a legal treaty which national governments could adopt into law.

Over 800 young people across the globe applied to take part in Mock COP26, with the highest number of applicants coming from India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines. There is consensus amongst young people that voices the Global South are not being heard, resulting in a determination to ensure that students from the Global South, and marginalised voices, are represented and heard at the conference.

Conference themes

The conference will feature empowering keynotes and panels by global names and youth activists, including the UN Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake. The discussions will be framed around five conference themes: climate justice, education, health and mental health, climate resilient livelihoods, and carbon reduction targets (NDCs), and the focus will be on speakers from the Global South and marginalised groups.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Envoy on Youth said: “I am delighted to see so many young climate leaders from around the world coming together to organise Mock COP26, and making a commitment to continue amplifying marginalised voices within the climate movement. Young people worldwide — and particularly those in the developing world — are already disproportionately experiencing the worst impacts of climate change. They will also be the ones facing the long-term consequences of climate decisions made by world leaders today. 

“I join them in asking decision-makers everywhere to take the climate crisis seriously and commit to meaningful action on climate change so that we can ensure a healthy and sustainable planet for generations to come.”

Amplifying voices

Each country’s delegation will have an opportunity to make a high-level statement outlining the views of young people from the countries they represent, with more time allocated to countries from the Global South, and those facing the most severe impact from our changing climate. Following the conference, delegates will then be supported and mentored to engage their domestic politicians in the run up to COP26.

At Greenhouse we are delighted to be supporting these young organisers with communications around Mock COP26. Voices of delegates from the Global South have already appeared in the Guardian, the Metro, Reuters and EFE, and as the conference progresses we’ll be continuing to help amplify delegates’ voices. Following last week’s brilliant and inspiring Youth Climate Summit, we’re looking forward to hearing once again what young people have to say about their future.

You can keep up to date with Mock COP26 on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, and by following the hashtags #MockCOP26 and #ForTheYouthByTheYouth.

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