A scavenger hunt in COP26’s most important document

When I was younger, I enjoyed scavenger hunts. In particular, I spent a lot of time exploring “I Spy” and “Where’s Waldo?” books, in which readers were given a list of items to find in a busy visual scene.

Today, I invite you to join me on a similar scavenger hunt.

The scene is the Glasgow Climate Pact, which is the final document that came out of COP26.

The task at hand is to find the words “climate emergency”, “crisis”, “phase out”, “education”, and “civic engagement” within the text.

(If you have the time, I encourage you to review the text and try to find the words yourself before you continue reading this blog.)

For those of you who enjoy scavenger hunts, this task might be very frustrating.

The pathetic reality is that none of the above terms are mentioned in the Glasgow Climate Pact. For over two weeks, representatives from almost 200 nations met in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss actions on climate change, and their greatest achievement was producing a document that did not include the words “education” or “civic engagement”, two key components in creating equitable climate solutions. The text also failed to verbalize that climate change is a crisis and an emergency.

All in all, COP26 failed in its most important task: producing meaningful and publicly-informed solutions for the people most affected by a changing climate. The Glasgow Climate Pact is an inadequate response to the most pressing threat of our time, and it was extremely frustrating to witness the catastrophic exclusion of civil society within the COP26 conference.

For many COP delegates, myself included, COP26 was another example of the inequity that plagues government decision-making. The Glasgow Climate Pact was largely written and negotiated without feedback or votes from civil society, including youth, scientific nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, Indigenous leaders, people of color, frontline communities, and more. By and large, women were also largely excluded from the drafting and negotiation process, with most of the teams including mostly men.

The lack of inclusion of civil society is evident in the insufficient depth and breath of the Glasgow Climate Pact. The text looks nice on the surface, but one quickly identifies the gaps in ambition and initiative from member countries to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

If we can’t rely on our elected representatives and heads of state to make decisions that will protect us, who can we rely on?

We can rely on each other.

I truly believe that the answers to many of our social and environmental issues are rooted in strengthening our sense of community.

When we connect with others, we care for them. When we care for them, our love for them grows. And when love grows, we seek to protect our loved ones from threats to their well-being.

The climate crisis is the world’s largest existential threat. Currently, billions of lives are at stake, and the empty promises from COP26 and elected representatives are not enough to sufficiently protect the lives of the people and places we love.

Despite operating in a global network, the fossil fuel extractive economy is reliant on human disconnection. These corporations thrive when communities are fragmented because they are able to continue their harmful practices without accountability to the people.

Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, authored a fascinating overview of successful efforts of social change. After analyzing hundreds of social movements over the last century, she concluded that movements engaging at least 3.5% of the population did not fail to bring about change.

What does this research mean for us?

It means there is hope. As residents of a nation with approximately 330 million people, we are capable of bringing about meaningful, impactful, equitable, just, and long-lasting change by mobilizing 11.5 million people within the United States. For reference, my state of Florida has more than 21 million residents. If each of us catalyzes a group of people to take climate action, we have an amazing chance to build a new climate reality.

How do we build this sense of  community and a network of climate action? I’ve compiled a few ways here:

  • Join a local advocacy organization.
  • Identify your sphere of influence and bring climate topics into it through regular climate conversations.
  • Learn about your local government and participate in a town meeting. Invite your neighbor.
  • Write to your local newspaper.
  • Share this blog with someone else.
  • Support local food initiatives, like community-supported agriculture (CSA).

I invite you to pick one option (or several!) from the list above and do it. Climate activism is not solely reserved for those that are holding megaphones at a climate rally. It also includes reaching out to our neighbors and loved ones, starting climate conversations, and taking an additional step wherever we are on our advocacy journey.

I believe in you and I believe in us.

It was a tremendous honor to attend COP as a member of the Climate Generation: Window into COP26 delegation and amplify the work of The CLEO Institute. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share the stories and voices of hundreds of youth activists and educators from Florida, and interact with amazing leaders from around Scotland and the entire world.

I wish I had better results from COP to share with you all. Nevertheless, attending this conference was truly a life-changing experience. I know that I will carry the lessons I learned everywhere I go.

For what it’s worth, COP26 was a major disappointment, but the failure of elected officials to do the right and necessary thing does not mean that the solutions are out of reach. People hold tremendous power, and, united, we will be the heroes we need.

Julieta Rodrigo

Julieta Rodrigo is a certified climate science educator and communicator, and a member of Climate Generation’s Window into COP26 Delegation this November. In her role as Program Manager at The CLEO Institute, she educates students, teachers, and the general public about the climate crisis. Learn more about Julieta and subscribe to follow her experience at COP26.

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