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Wild Center youth delegation talks about attending COP-26

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake (file)
Pat Bradley
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake (file)

With dire warnings from President Biden and other world leaders, the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland is the latest effort to discuss policies set out during 2015’s COP-21 in Paris. Attendees at the conference include a youth delegation from the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

The UN is holding its 26th annual COP, or Conference of the Parties on climate change, known generally as COP-26. The 12-day summit is expected to result in actions to update 2030 emissions targets and create a global net zero energy economy.

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake initially hosted youth climate summits that focused on the Adirondack region. The effort has grown to engage young people around the globe. A delegation from the program spoke with WAMC from the Scotland summit.

University of Vermont graduate and program coordinator for the University of Colorado Boulder’s Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network Gina Fiorile was also a delegate for the Wild Center at COP-21 in Paris.

“I think people are really feeling like this is the year that, our last opportunity to do anything. So people are really pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing leaders really hard this year." Fiorile adds, "We’ve already like accidently stumbled upon a few protests and marches. So I would say there’s a lot of pressure on leaders right now. That’s the general sense.”

Saranac Lake native Silas Swanson is a sophomore at Columbia University. He is posting dispatches from Glasgow documenting his experiences at COP-26.

“There are negotiations happening but it is so much more than just negotiations. There is an entire world of amazing civil society organizations that are networking with one another and they are sharing best practices. And it’s a show of support and force of all things climate action not just what a state department decides. But the Conference of Parties really is all encompassing in terms of the types of organizations that are here. And so the sense is like agenda setting on one side for the negotiators and they know they have a big task in front of them," Says Swanson. "But this is the biggest conference that the United Nations hosts. That says a lot about the importance of this issue and an indication of all the work that’s going on around the world.”

Wild Center Director of Climate Initiatives Jen Kretser is among the staff members accompanying delegates. She participated in a roundtable with White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and the launch of the U.S. Action for Climate Empowerment Coalition at COP-26.

“We are a group of organizations and individuals that are working to elevate not just climate change education but sort of thinking about it in this very broad whole of society approach.”

Lake Placid High School alumna Elise Pierson is a St. Lawrence University sophomore who works with the Lake Placid Climate Smart Communities Committee. She says youth at COP-26 are seeking sweeping systemic climate change policies.

“The whole reason we’re here is to see political change. I just attended the Conference of Youth from all over the world. One of the things we did at the end was submit a global youth statement. They had this huge, huge like survey for everyone where they took input from youth all over the world to see what they wanted to change. And then they eventually submitted to the president of COP." Pierson continues, "So they want the political change. They’re pushing for it. There were some very, very passionate people at the closing ceremony. A couple unauthorized actions. I think we’re more optimistic in the civil society hoping to see political change.”

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