YMCA delegate Tuulia Toivanen on how to survive COP27
Tuulia Toivanen, a newly elected vice board member of YMCA Finland, also representing YMCA Turku, joined fellow YMCA delegates at COP27 in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. In the article, she summarizes the first week of the conference and weighs the motivation and shared thoughts of young climate activists.
A beginners guide to surviving at COP27
- Bring comfortable shoes
- Be prepared to be overwhelmed
- Get to work and change the world!
The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP27, is currently being held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and will run from 6-18 November 2022. The stakes couldn’t be higher at the conference, but what is happening on the ground? In this post, I will try to describe what COP is, what it looks and feels like, as a young person experiencing it for the first time.
For COP27, the UN has chosen to focus on four topics: Mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. This is paramount, as global temperatures have increased by 1.1C since pre-industrial times, and scientists believe that going over the 1.5C threshold is going to have catastrophic, unprecedented outcomes for the planet and people all over the world. Drastic change is going to be needed to achieve the goal of 1.5C, as continuing with the current policies could result in a 2.7C warming – an outcome we will not want to see.
At COP27 for the first time, young activists have a dedicated platform and space within the blue zone (the inner, UN-managed space at the conference). The newly added Children and Youth Pavilion will give young people the space and platform to hold discussions, meetings and policy briefings. The Children and Youth Pavilion has already become a vibrant and colourful space – by young people, for young people – since its opening on 8 November. On the walls of the pavilion, you can see artworks created by young people from all over the world as well as a climate clock counting down the time left to limit global warming to 1.5C. At the time of writing this, the clock stood at 6 years, 254 days, 4 minutes and 29 seconds. The clock is quite literally ticking for the fate of our future.
The days at COP27 usually start with a briefing organised by YOUNGO, the Children and Youth Constituency within the UNFCCC, where we can hear about any major updates from the main talks and negotiations happening, as well as find out which events might be interesting for youth organisations. After the morning briefing it is time to get going, perhaps going to a side event organised by one of the many pavilions in the Blue Zone, going to a meeting you might have arranged, or even just getting the first coffee of the day. As every day at COP is action-packed and there are too many events to join, it is important to have a clear agenda and schedule for each day – as this allows you to make the most of the day.
After a day that no doubt has been hectic and inspiring, it is time to go back to the accommodation and have dinner with the other people from the YMCA delegation and debrief the things you’ve seen and heard, as well as just relax and recharge for the next day.
Even though there have been some logistical challenges, such as empty water fountains and not sufficient food at the food courts, the energy of COP cannot be dimmed. People are open and ready for conversations and networking; you get a chance to connect with (young) people from all over the world; you get to follow and witness in real-time how the fate of our future gets shaped and decided.
At the opening ceremony of the conference, UN secretary general António Guterres remarked the following: –We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing.
We, as the largest youth organisation worldwide, must be on the right side of history and do our very best to win the fight against climate change. The time is now, our future literally depends on it, and the current and future generations are going to be our judges.
It is easy to lose hope, and become depressed about the prospects of our futures, especially as young people. We did not create the chaos of the world we are living in, but we are the ones who are dealing with the consequences already and will have to continue to do so for the rest of our lives. However, at COP27 I could not sense despair or passive acceptance of our fate – what I could sense was overwhelmingly a sense of drive. Young people are driven by different emotions and motivations, sometimes hope, sometimes rage and sometimes an absolute necessity and the survival of their homes. In contrast, the passiveness of so many seems even more bewildering, as there is no time for passiveness – the time to act was yesterday, so we have a lot of catching up to do. The climate clock reminds us of the time we have left to act – which is less than seven years.
So, dear friends and YMCA colleagues, I leave you with another quote, that I hope will inspire YOU to take action within your local, national or international YMCA networks, and help the people we do everything for. Young people.
–To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing we can do). Each of us must find our work and do it.
– Audre Lorde, American writer
A team of a dozen young YMCA delegates from different corners of the world travelled to COP27, being held between 6–18 of November, 2022, to advocate for climate action. As young voices the delegates highlight the consequences of the crisis generations of young people have to endure within their lifetime and the importance of the third pillar, Sustainable Planet, of the recently adopted YMCA’s strategy Vision2030.
Tuulia’s text was first published on the website of World YMCA.