British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speak at COP26 World Leaders Summit. (COP26/Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)
In November the United Nations held their 26th annual climate summit, COP26. Delegates from across the globe met to discuss plans of action to combat climate change. The result was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which encourages nations to scale back emissions by 2030 to prevent the 1.5 degrees Celcius of global warming.
But at the same time, around 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow to advocate for more climate action. Around the globe, people marched for the same cause.
Soon after the conference, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better bill, approving over $2 trillion in spending, much of which is allotted to combat climate change throughout the next decade. Yet to be approved by the Senate, the bill's spending overall is more than a trillion dollars less than President Joe Biden's original proposal. Among the list of ideas proposed by the bill is the first-ever Civilian Climate Corps, a federally funded program to provide America’s youth with environmental protection and reclamation jobs. Both COP26 and the bill reveal insights into what the future of climate change advocacy looks like for youth around the world.
In conversation with me on November 22, Washington Post climate reporter and Planet Forward Advisory Councilmember Tik Root analyzed what happened in the conference, or maybe more appropriately, what didn’t happen, and how the future of climate action may be shaped by COP26 and the Build Back Better bill.
Helen Bradshaw 0:02
The United Nations Climate Conference, COP26, wrapped up on November 12 in Glasgow. I'm Planet Forward correspondent Helen Bradshaw. And in the aftermath of the climate discussions, I sat down with Washington Post Climate Solutions reporter Tik Root to learn his key takeaways from the conference, and what the future of climate action could look like for young adults.
Our first question is, what do you think are the most important and potentially impactful promises to come out of COP26?
Tik Root 0:38
I mean, I think they accelerated the pace at which they're going to be making NDC reporting commitments. I believe it went from five years to one. So I think there'll be some increased reporting on that front. But I think the story of COP is largely what's what's not there? More than more than what is there? And I think there's, I think there was pretty, pretty widespread disappointment with with the deal, that deal that was reached out to conference. You know, there was some language about fossil fuels. But I think, you know, advocates would say that it's, it was pretty watered down from from some of the original calls. And most importantly, you know, there was a, there was a call for, for countries of the Global North to meet its commitment over $100 billion a year in funding for the Global South. But it doesn't appear that there was a increase in that, in that funding, which I think would be really, which which country I'd say is really necessary to keep some of the climate finance and emissions targets on track. So overall, I'd say that people were fairly disappointed with what came out of Glasgow, but it will be, it'll be interesting to see how they deal with that going forward.
Helen Bradshaw 2:15
So in response to a lot of what was happening, there were many protests led largely by youth, indigenous people and people from the Global South. Do you think young people can or should play a role in holding governments accountable for their claims of action?
Tik Root 2:30
I mean, I think that can be a question, you know, is answered by your question. They were there. And I think Greta Thunberg said, a bit of a tone for the conference at the beginning with her, bla bla bla, quote, which I think you saw, you know, Boris Johnson reiterate and a few others. So, I mean, they're clearly having an impact, and they're clearly being, being taken relatively seriously as, as participants in this process. You know, whether they can have a more direct role? That's an interesting question. I know that the UN calls for increased participation in a lot of its UNFCCC documents and in the Paris Agreement, but I think there's not a lot of concrete plans as to make that happen.
Helen Bradshaw 3:21
Can you think of any ways that young activists in particular can work to hold their governments accountable or to make them adhere to the claims of action that they've created?
Tik Root 3:29
Yeah, no. I think you I think you've seen, you've seen people like Greta Thunberg and the Friday's for future, you know, garner significant media attention and significant, you know, attention globally. And so I think, I think you start to see it, definitely register on, you know, global leaders who are reiterating the phrases or some of the demands, and I think you've seen some of these small country nations as well make their voices heard, you know, what, what leverage they ultimately have on the final decision, as I guess up to the negotiators, but they're certainly not unnoticed t would seem.
Helen Bradshaw 4:14
Along those lines, similar, just in vein to talking about young peopl, the House passed the Build Back Better bill on Friday. I know in an article recently for the Washington Post, you touched on the new civilian climate corps proposed by the bill, if this becomes a reality, how do you think it'll impact young people?
Tik Root 4:30
It will be really interesting and the expansion of, I mean, the Biden administration called it for the creation of a civilian climate corps and in many ways, it's an expansion of the [unintelligable] corps to include a lot of climate focused jobs and you know, dating back to FDR, CCC, you know, they tried to harken back to that program, which was, you know, fairly beloved in its time. I think it's going to be an employment opportunity and employment option for many youth around the country, if it passes, if it gets implemented, you know, it's unclear exactly what the timeline would be but you know as soon as a couple years from now there could be an option for kids coming out of high school and college to join the CCC... again.
Helen Bradshaw 5:21
Do you see it being a largely youth-run organization in the sense that, you know, its majority comprised of youth? Or what do you think the breakdown of that could look like?
Tik Root 5:31
Yeah, my understanding is there's likely going to be age requirements. I haven't seen exactly what that might look like. But my understanding is it's very much geared towards youth and young people.
Helen Bradshaw 5:43
The US is responsible for nearly a quarter of the world's Co2 emissions, despite only making up less than 5% of the total world population, based on the steps outlined during COP and the potential for the Build Back Better bill to become law is the US promising to do their fair share to combat climate change?
Tik Root 5:58
I mean, I think the data shows that pretty much every country is on track to not meet their – the the NDCs and the emissions targets that they promised, I believe that includes the US, but even if they were on track, it doesn't, it's not enough of emissions reduction to keep us below a 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. And so I guess the question is, if the Paris Agreement, you know, tries to keep 1.5 in sight, and the US and other countries targets wouldn't allow that, and they're not on track to even meet those targets, I guess it's you know, yeah, I can let other people say whether that means you're doing enough to combat climate change, but there definitely appears to be that. And Glasgow didn't change that and I think this is one of the biggest disappointments people have this Glasgow's that it kept the world on track to blow past 1.5 and possibly even two degrees Celsius of warming, which is not what the Paris Agreement calls for.
Helen Bradshaw 7:14
You can find Tik's most recent work in the Washington Post. For Planet Forward, I'm Helen Bradshaw.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai