Youth activists stage virtual climate 'summit'

Paris (AFP) –


More than 350 young people from 145 countries opened a mock climate summit on Thursday, with the real negotiations on how to cope with potentially catastrophic global warming put off until November 2021.

The UN-led talks, to be held in Glasgow under Britain's stewardship, fell afoul of the Covid pandemic, but activists from 18 youth groups -- including Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future -- are frustrated with the lack of progress.

"If the climate crisis is so urgent why isn't everyone acting like it's an emergency?", said 18-year-old Malaika Collette from Ontario, Canada.

"It's hard to understand why the entire world isn't fighting like their life depends on it."

Climate change impacts are clearly accelerating, say scientists.

Devastating wild fires, record sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, more devastating tropical storms and more intense heatwaves all bear the unmistakable fingerprint of rising global temperatures.

2020 could be the hottest year on record, beating out a year -- 2016 -- made warmer by a naturally occurring El Nino.

The nearly 200 signatories to the 2015 Paris climate treaty must submit updated plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), to slash greenhouse gas emissions by the year's end, and youth groups are looking to keep the pressure on.

- Youth 'sidelined' -

"It is so important that world leaders raise their ambition when it comes to climate policy," said Josh Tregale, 18, from Dorset in Britain.

"Too often young climate activists are patronised and cast aside," he added. "We don't want empty words, we want action."

Japan, Europe and Britain have all pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, and China vowed earlier this year to attain that goal by 2060.

Young people will be living with the consequences of climate change but are too often "sidelined" when it comes to decision-making, said Kenyan organiser Pauline Owiti.

"The involvement of young people in decision making should be a priority," she said. "With Mock COP26 we have the opportunity to contribute something meaningful to society and change the perception of youth leadership."

Discussions at the 12-day virtual meeting will focus on climate justice and education, health and mental wellbeing, green jobs and cutting carbon pollution, the organisers said.

Giving a prominent place to "voices form the global south", the mock summit will culminate in a statement detailing what leaders should agree to at Glasgow in 2021.

Jean Damase Roamba from Burkina Faso said his country faced "all the negative impacts of climate change -- heavy precipitation, floods, drought".

"I dream for an ambitious COP26, and I hope that Mock COP26 will help show the path," he added.

The 196-nation United Nations Climate Change conference, also known as COP26, next November is widely seen as the most crucial since the Paris Agreement was inked five years ago.