First day at COP26 – setting the scene

By Silke Bölts

Being a member of the World YMCA’s Resource Group on the Environment since 2015, Silke has served as the co-lead in the working group for Environmental Initiatives, for Climate Education and is currently Head of YMCA’s Delegation for COP26. 

It’s happening again! After waiting for an extra year due to COVID-19, climate activists, scientists, negotiators and other save-the-world-enthusiasts are gathering once again for COP26 – the climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Prior to COP, there was also the Conference of the Youth, a weekend organized by young people for young people, which includes policy development, capacity building and skill sharing elements and was a great warm-up to COP26.

German delegation

The 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began on Sunday 31st of October with an extensive opening ceremony. Statements and speeches filled the day, including representatives of the youth constituency YOUNGO.

A climate conference is a busy space with lots of people, which feels very unusual after such a long time without any mass events, but safety measures are being taken very seriously – wearing face masks is mandatory, disinfectants are available all over the place and meeting room access is restricted to a certain number of people.

On the first day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – so many events going on and numerous decisions to make on where to go and what to do, but joining the YOUNGO meetings and activities is always good practice to avoid getting lost. YOUNGO advocates for more ambitious and inclusive climate policies and serves as an umbrella organization for all youth groups.

YOUNGO morning meeting

The main issues negotiated at COP26 on Day 1 were Article 6 with Carbon Trading, the Common Timeframes, the Adaptation Fund as well as Loss and Damage and Human Rights. All these policies need to be agreed upon in an ambitious, transparent and consistent manner – only then will we have a chance to turn the crisis into a challenge and make a U-turn towards a livable future.

And the YMCA delegation will be there to watch, comment and share with the world, as YMCA Ambassadors begin to arrive in Glasgow, get settled in – all eager to collect their badges and meet other inspiring people.

On Monday, the World Leaders Summit will take place where many heads of State will attend and present their contributions. This serves to drive more ambition and spur action and youths (under 35s by the YOUNGGO definition) are engaged all over COP26.

My personal highlight of the week will be a side event that is entirely organized by young people. “Rethinking our future – young visions on sustainability” will present different initiatives that serve as examples for climate action projects along with the different Sustainable Development Goals. YMCA contribution there is guaranteed!

The event will happen on Friday, the 5th of November from 3.30 pm to 5 pm GMT+0 and is accessible after registration on the virtual platform of the German pavilion.

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