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News: COP26 brings opportunities for young people to get involved

Posted 27 October, 2021 by Nina Joynson

The spotlight is on the climate emergency as COP26 approaches, and recent reports provide evidence for the crisis’ impact on children, highlighting the importance of engaging young people in climate action

With Glasgow soon to play host to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), conversations throughout Scotland are focused on the climate emergency, while recently published reports demonstrate that the crisis is inextricably linked to children’s rights.  

In an August report, UNICEF introduced the Children’s Climate Risk Index to provide insight into the climate risk from a child’s perspective and the specific vulnerabilities faced by young people to events resulting from climate change. Soon after, Save the Children published Born into the Climate Crisis, a report outlining the intergenerational impact of climate change and its infringement on children’s rights. 

The report calls for the recognition of children as equal stakeholders and principal key agents of change, with child-friendly mechanisms and platforms necessary to facilitate formal engagement in climate policy.  

The research published by both organisations shows that children have contributed the least to climate change but stand to lose the most, and those in low- and middle-income countries face the greatest consequences of environmental damage.  

With COP26 comes a meaningful avenue for the inclusion of children and young people's voices and views.

The Conference of Youth (COY16) takes place from 28 to 31 October, preparing young people for participation in COP26 and giving them a voice in the climate negotiations of the Conference. COP26 itself offers teaching materials to discuss climate change in the classroom, with the ambition of engaging young people in discussions on the climate emergency from an early age.  

The Conference also brings opportunities for children in Glasgow to get involved directly with matters of sustainability and the environment.

To form a ‘living legacy’ of COP26, eight Wee Forests will be planted in Glasgow spaces, led by Earthwatch and NatureScot. On land donated by Glasgow City Council, each forest will include 600 densely packed native trees that will become home to over 500 plant and animal species in its first three years. 

The project provides rich opportunities for young people to engage with the environment, improving access to green spaces in the city. These new spaces offer children a place to play, and equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to protect the environment and inspire climate action. 

The Wee Forests will have lasting connections with children in Glasgow, as Earthwatch plans to involve young people in collecting scientific data to assess the forests’ environmental benefits and their impact on the wellbeing of people in the local area.  

With COP26 just around the corner, engaging young people in climate emergency discussions and negotiations is instrumental to their future, and the Conference brings with it a wealth of opportunities to galvanise a young generation towards action. 

Click here to read UNICEF’s report  

Click here to read Save the Children’s report  

Click here to explore teaching materials from COP26