Young people like me have made history this Cop26 ‘youth day’ – now it’s your turn

The real force for change at Cop isn’t in the conference hall, but on the streets – that’s why we’re striking

Scarlett Westbrook
Friday 05 November 2021 10:46
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<p>‘Cop26 has the power to transform our futures for the better’ </p>

‘Cop26 has the power to transform our futures for the better’

Today is the fifth day of Cop26, dubbed as “youth day” – as it is dedicated to youth and public engagement. It will follow a formulaic series of talks, where politicians from across the world will thank young people for our work while continuing to push forward inadequate climate pledges that destroy our living conditions.

Although they will spend this day praising us, they’ve chosen to lock us out of the negotiating rooms (for the first time in over 10 years), which is why we’re taking to the streets.

Cop26 has the power to transform our futures for the better. It could see a comprehensive international Green New Deal, which would rapidly decarbonise the world whilst providing the most vulnerable countries with climate resilience technology and colonial reparations.

It could arrange a just transition for all workers; adequate measures taken against murderous air pollution and the bridging of inequality for all through targeted investment and resources.

Yet despite this potential, Cop26 has failed to successively implement adequate climate measures, decade after decade – instead choosing to pass policies that line the pockets of fossil fuel corporations that are tearing our planet and livelihoods apart.

Instead of positively revamping our current exploitative economic and environmental systems through successful and inclusive negotiations, Cop26 has become a live-streamed game of musical chairs as negotiators – including from the most vulnerable countries – get locked out of negotiations as there is a “limit on chairs”.

You see, the real force for change at Cop isn’t in the conference hall, but on the streets of the host city. While world leaders squabble over semantics, thousands of people have gathered together to unite for climate justice. We have been outside their windows every single day of Cop so far – we aren’t going to be fooled by solipsistic speeches promising to act whilst doing the opposite, and today isn’t going to be any different.

On this Cop26 day of youth, young people will strike across the country, and we will be joined by workers too.

Why? Well, young people will be striking for global climate justice – and we will do all that we can to attain it, supported by the broader collective movement for a better future.

We aren’t going to let ourselves be tokenised by politicians who couldn’t care less about sustainability, and we will make it clear that we won’t let our voices be sidelined.

In Glasgow, this strike will be especially significant. For the first time, young people from all corners of the Earth will be protesting shoulder-to-shoulder – connected in person, rather than virtually – in Scotland’s biggest city.

Not only will we be taking action on the streets, but we will be making history within the conference too: today will see the first-ever Education Minister’s Summit take place – put forward by students from Teach the Future and Mock Cop.

We have helped co-organise this event alongside the UK Department for Education, UNESCO and the Italian education minister.

We will see education ministers from across the world pledge to improve and expand their countries provision of climate education for the first time – thus bringing climate education to a global stage in a move never seen before, all pioneered by young people (despite the Department for Education now trying to take all the credit).

Not only this, but after months of working with the Department for Education and years of lobbying, it has today been announced that Teach the Future have successfully helped to bring about changes to the curriculum, which will see the extension of climate education into science in primary school, every subject in secondary school and the introduction of green energy pods which will operate at zero carbon and begin the public sector’s decarbonisation journey.

Coming just a week after we co-organised the first-ever Westminster Hall Debate on teaching climate change in schools with Nadia Whittome, and also wrote about it, this news couldn’t have come at a better time.

Nadhim Zahawi’s plans definitely don’t go far enough: we need urgent reform to education which sees mandatory extension of climate education into every single subject – from nursery to university and apprenticeships, not just optional lesson plans for primary school science and secondary school subjects.

We need a teacher training qualification that equips teachers to educate students on climate. Our research has shown that 70 per cent of teachers reported no mention of climate in their teacher training qualifications, and this must change.

We also need to ensure we fully decarbonise education buildings by 2030 – and ensure that new education buildings are built to be carbon zero from 2022.

Despite the shortcomings, this is a significant first step towards a comprehensive, climate-informed curriculum that prepares us with all of the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to build a resilient and green society.

Teach the Future is a grassroots campaign comprised of 14 to 20-year-olds from across the UK – from all different walks of life. This achievement shows us the true power of young people, whether that’s through mass mobilisations or driving policy changes like this one.

Today’s strike and education announcements clarify the true catalyst for radical and idiosyncratic change that young people are.

We will be united across borders today, making our mark on the ground at school strikes and at the decision-making table at the Education Minister’s Summit, proving that another world is possible – and we won’t stop our efforts until we attain it. Join us.

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