Observing with your eyes being covered
First time in Egypt, first time at COP, first time being the head of the delegation during week 2 at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. I have to admit that before going to COP, you have no idea what to expect. And no matter how prepared you arrive, you need to adapt immediately, improvise and work on the spot under pressure. And that’s because being at COP as an observer, it feels like you are observing a living thing at its evolution but with your eyes being covered. You don’t know what this evolution looks like behind closed doors, but at the same time you need to react as soon as you get a hint of the direction of the negotiations.
Our delegation during week 2 worked a lot on networking with International & European Organisations, youth groups, climate activists and other NGOs. The group managed to organise and facilitate a networking session in the Children & Youth Pavilion with the participation of one of the negotiators for achieving meaningful youth engagement in the climate negotiations and bridging the intergenerational gap. A very interesting day was the day we all wore our YEE designed T-shirts with the logo “Talk to me about Climate Justice”. Apparently, this led a lot of people towards our path to hold discussions about climate justice. This interaction during this week with so many people could really give you the impression that people want to hear the voice of youth. But how close to the truth is this?
Our role as young activists at COP27 was limited and restricted. Young people were a very small percentage of the people participating at COP, and due to limited resources they were not living under good conditions which are a requirement to be able to manage the stress and the intensity of being 12 hours at the venue every day for 1 or 2 weeks. Despite these conditions and how left out we were feeling, we were there, the same faces trying to make our voices heard and gain a seat at the table. Even though the Youth & Children Pavilion was one small step of the youth involvement, it was most of the time still a place for youth to youth and not a place to bring together negotiators and young people. It was isolated and did not serve the immediate response needed of the role of youth in the climate crisis. Frustration, exhaustion, disappointment were some of the feelings I felt were common among the young people.
Despite these negative emotions, our hope and urge to become part of climate negotiations could not be tamed. After reading the final decision of COP27, I felt the spark of a small victory by the explicit mention of the role of youth in addressing climate change and the encouragement towards including youth representatives in the climate negotiations. Though, the wording used does not guarantee any strong implementation, therefore, I keep my excitement for that very suppressed, until I witness it in practice.
I am going to conclude my reflections with a feeling that I think I’ll never forget. Witnessing my future determined by people who leave the future generation aside and silently quit the 1.5 target that was set in the Paris Agreement, made me feel like I am sitting tied in a chair seeing my house getting burned. But as long as I’ll have a voice, I’ll be shouting: we are not yet defeated.