What did we learn from COP26?

Eloise McNulty is a pupil at St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School in East Kilbride. She was one of a number of young people from across Lanarkshire who took part in a Climate Emergency Newsroom during the conference. 100 days on she reflects on what she learned.

On Sunday October 31 the world looked on as COP26 began. Some in hope, some in fear and some in doubt. It was at this moment that I realised we were observing a crucial moment, one which would be talked about for generations to come.

I made a decision then that I ask you to make too. When my grandchildren ask about COP26 they will be bewildered and fascinated – not by the fact that I was actually in the same city as Leonardo DiCaprio – but by the fact that such an event ever needed to exist.

I made the decision to take from COP26 not a message of frustration, terror, or scepticism but rather a message of hope that there is time to fix this. This message of hope is emulated in Pope Francis’ call for followers of God to pray, learn and act for the protection of our world in his encyclical Laudato si.

There were things about this COP that stood out. Glasgow became caught between two worlds. Against the backdrop of a city which was built on the shipbuilding trade and fuelled by the burning of coal, we saw protests from thousands of impassioned young people against fossil fuels, we saw negotiations being made between governments in an attempt to stop the global temperature rising, and most importantly, we saw a wider discussion about giving those most affected by climate change a voice and a seat at the table.

These are just some examples of the ways people choose to enact their duty to help our world. However, people do this globally in many different and beautiful ways. For example, my own school has decided to answer Pope Francis’ call and has pledged to become a Laudato si school.

If we want to try and be the best people we can be – the people Pope Francis encourages us to be – listening to those who are suffering the most from actions outwith their control is essential.

There were signs that things have already changed towards a slightly better future: Glasgow itself no longer relies as heavily on coal and it appears cities across the world will be cutting down on their fossil fuel consumption, and the voices of indigenous people were finally included at the COP event — but they must keep changing.

It is not enough to have an annual event and then move on with our lives. We must do our best to hold our governments accountable for the agreements they have made. We must teach those around us about the impacts of climate change and how they can help stop it. We must be open to learning and adapting to new things. It is not enough to sit by and watch, we must do something. It is evident that time is a precious thing – let’s act before our glorious planet runs out of it.

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