What the organiser of youth climate strikes in Manchester learned from COP26 summit in Glasgow

Emma Greenwood participated at a panel event alongside North West elected mayors and took part in actions raising the voices and views of young people.

An organiser behind the youth climate strikes in Manchester city centre has spoken of going to the COP26 summit and what she learned there.

Emma Greenwood, from Bury, was invited to the global climate talks in Glasgow and took part in a panel event alongside two elected metro mayors from the North West.

She also worked with fellow teenage activists from around the world who are part of the Fridays for Future movement to amplify the voices of young people.

She said that while it was exciting to be at such an important event many important voices were excluded from the discussion and the end result of the conference could only be regarded as a major disappointment.

She is now taking stock of her experiences in Scotland before the demonstrations by young people for a greener future free of the worst impacts of the climate crisis get under way once more.

‘A nice community but really intimidating’

Emma spoke at COP26 as part of a panel event involving Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and his compatriot for the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.

She spoke about the impact of the climate crisis on her generation and how that links to action and policy on the issue.

She also spent time while she was there with other Fridays for Future campaigners, including well-known activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines.

Much of their work involved getting the voices of young people heard, which Emma said was a major issue at COP26.

She was left with very mixed feelings about the whole event having seen it for herself.

Emma Greenwood addressing a youth strike for climate change

Emma, 17, said: “It was a unique environment to be in, seeing so many international representatives.

“It created a nice micro-community. There was a lot of passion pushing for change.

“However, it was also really intimidating because it was very Western-dominated.

“A lot of us from Fridays for Future were brought together at COP and we did actions to bring awareness of the youth voice which wasn’t very present there.

“We stood outside one of the plenaries and acted as a vocal presence, making sure the activism outside was felt inside.

“It was a good assembly of youth activists and we were able to share that experience and support each other. It was amazing to meet everyone but a draining environment.

“Coming out of that, where you were with people who all have the same passion, was a real culture shock.”

Outcome of COP26 means the campaigns will go on

Emma gave a resoundingly negative verdict to the outcome of COP26, saying it had not nearly achieved enough to tackle the climate crisis.

She said: “The outcome of COP was quite underwhelming and disappointing. The energy, power and passion there just wasn’t reciprocated by decision-makers.

“Issues were highlighted and acknowledged but we’ve done that since the first COP.

COP26 president Alok Sharma attempts to stop applause for his efforts as the summit ended in glasgow on Saturday amid what he called 'deep disappointment'. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“There was little mention of fossil fuels, even though they are a key component of the climate crisis.

“Issues were walked around in a very diplomatic way.”

What happens next?

Emma says the youth climate strikes will be returning to Manchester, with young people inspired by activists like Greta Thunberg walking out of classes at school and college on Fridays to demand a better future.

In the wake of the conference she is also clear about what she wants to campaign for and there are measures afoot to allow young people to have a greater say.

However, first the youth activists will need to recover from the draining fortnight at COP and there is also academic work to catch up on.

Emma said: “We’ve got funding for a youth commission and hopefully any climate policy in the North West will pass through this body of young people.

“At the moment they’re shoved to one side. Sometimes they’re consulted, but not really.

“We want to ensure every level of a community, including under-18s, can feed into climate policy because it affects us all. It shouldn’t just be councillors or MPs, it should be everyone.

“Going forward there needs to be more international collaboration and explicit policy demands made by countries.

“We’re having a break at the moment. COP takes a lot of energy.

“We’re going to do some planning on what the next steps will be and what issues we want to tackle.

“We are taking a step back and giving ourselves time to rest, but there is a lot more to come.”