Broken-hearted, helpless and once again sidelined
It was a pleasure to lead the YEE delegation for one more COP with incredible 11 young people across Europe, who had dedicated over 6 months to researching and preparing for COP27. Despite the chaos of COP, the team delivered a UNFCCC-approved side event; hosted an UNFCCC-approved protest and were co-authors of the European Youth Organisations position paper.
Despite our achievements, COP27 was not a welcoming event for activists, young people and not-for-profit organisations. The format of UNFCCC normally tends to limit the access of anyone with an observer badge, but with Egypt as its host, “differing” opinions were silenced, protests were largely controlled and narratives had to be approved beforehand. Young people in the past were mere “decoration” but during this COP, young people were not even “seen” and instead, fossil fuel and nuclear energy lobbyists were taking centre stage, especially by having access to “party” badges from UNFCCC member states.
As young people, we once again have left another COP broken-hearted, helpless and once again sidelined. Every day, our team was concerned about what to say and what not to say, so they do not put themselves or their team in danger and sometimes, individuals wearing “host country” badges would listen to our conversations or take pictures of us. Our hope is that from this experience, UNFCCC has learned the threshold of tolerance towards host country’s control in organising COPs and does something concrete in protecting free speech, or else, it is only young people and activists who will pay a very dear cost for any inaction