Emma on Speaking at COP26

Emma, from the Young People's Forest Panel, shares her experience speaking at COP26 last November.

On the 8th of November 2021 I had the pleasure of speaking at the Adaptation, Loss and Damage Day at COP26 on behalf of the Young People's Forest. I was kindly invited to the Locally Led Adaptation Hub alongside Abi Gardner, representing NatureScot, to give an overview of our project, my personal experience and hopes for the future.

COP26 itself was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Imagine airport security on a sugar high, hundreds of individuals from all over the world, a lot of hand sanitiser and a massive globe! If you can imagine that then you pretty much have it.

Images of COP26 Blue Zone and Glasgow SSE Hydro Venue

I had the chance to explore the conference for the majority of the day and honestly…it was kind of overwhelming, there was so much to see, and everywhere you looked a buzz of people, speaking different languages and prioritising different agendas. The main room had been given out to a variety of stands and represented different countries and organisations, each trying to outdo the next with lights and decorations! Presentations would be held within these cubes and the flow of observers would pick an event and use headsets to escape the noise of the wider conference and focus on the speaker who held a connected microphone.

This is exactly how the Young People's Forest session ran, interested individuals would walk by the Locally Led Adaption Hub and pick up headphones to join in the conversation. It was a daunting start, staring out at an unknown group (who looked like they were connected to their music, rather than anything I said) but I was definitely excited to share our project with the world and gained confidence the more I spoke. 

Images of crowds at COP26, Image of Forest

The session ran in three stages, an introductory stage where I gave a prepared speech explaining the Young People's Forest and my personal views and relationship with sustainability. Then we looked to bring others on the Young People's Forest panel into the discussion and showed a video from our first in-person meeting.  Lastly, Abi led a Q&A session and we invited members of the audience to engage and ask questions. This proved popular and generated conversation with individuals that continued outside of the session.

For my last point I want to bring back the positives of this experience as I am extremely grateful to have participated in something as monumental as COP26 and honoured to have represented the Young People's Forest. Before the blue zone I had spent the weekend participating in grassroots action and attending the New York Times Climate Hub with the Young People's Forest and all together it felt like a full representation of the COP26 climate activism experience. I hope that my contributions to the COP conversation, on behalf of the Young People's Forest, have helped inspire others and would like to thank everyone involved who worked to create and promote this experience.

I don’t want to finish this blog without consideration of the complexities of COP26 and the controversial outcomes. From the outside there was a definite sense of the high walled, impenetrable blue zone but the culmination of cultures, ideas and experiences happening internally that I experienced was incredible. However, I think why this initial rhetoric still stuck with me was the sense that -even in the blue zone- key decisions were still being made elsewhere, take from that what you will.

Read other environmental blogs or visit our COP26 page to find out more about climate change, the climate crisis and the environment.

Click here to find out more about Scotland's Young People's Forest.

Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.