Posts in COP

COP 23: Reflections

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Blogs, COP No Comment yet

2050 Climate Group team member,  Siri Pantzar, offers some reflections on time spent at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany this November. 


It is such a precious thing, this conference. People who are all passionate about climate change, discussing solutions, research, projects, and policies. Everyone is keen. Everyone is interested. Everyone is buzzing.

It’s a shame that that’s all pretty much restricted to this event though.

When we go home, we go back to the silence on climate change. Most people don’t talk about climate change in their everyday lives. People around us are concerned, but don’t voice it, don’t engage with it, and more often than not don’t see it as an immediate issue that they have to do something about in their own lives, or one that impacts them. It’s in the future, it’s those poor polar bears, it’s in the small island states and in Africa. While this motivates some people to buy clean energy, turn down the heating or vote for greener candidates, most people are more concerned about immediate issues (or ones they perceive as such): getting a job, paying their bills, getting food for your children, getting a mortgage. Climate change is indeed big and bad, but essentially something somewhere else, for somebody else with more time on their hands to do.

One of the things I’ve constantly been impressed with about 2050 Climate Group is how it really addresses this issue, through making climate change relevant for young professionals by bringing it to the sphere where we have to operate in. We might want to do something about climate change, but often focus instead on things that will pay our bills, add experience to our CVs, or build us networks. 2050 fits into that framework. It makes being a part of the global action against climate change useful and fun to us, in our own specific terms, together with other people like us.

Yesterday I attended a talk by George Marshall, and I realised how special and crucial that is. George Marshall is a climate change communicator and the founder of Climate Outreach, a non-profit research organisation supporting those that want to work on climate communications. He stresses that tailoring the message is crucial; too often we use the same polar bear and disaster images, too often the messages are tailored to us who are already keen and identify with the issue, not to those that are not. Especially as we see the global politics reaching points where major countries can elect leaders that don’t believe in climate change, we, as people who know that this should not be a partisan issue, should acknowledge that we have allowed it to become one. There are values that we all hold dear involved in promoting climate change action, but they are not the same values for those on the left, as for those on the centre right, or those in faith communities, or environmental activists, or coal worker communities, or British people or Finnish people or Chinese people. For some it’s a question of justice and planetary environment, and those messages get aired often; for others it’s about fairness, or working together, or bringing the world to balance, preserving our heritage, protecting the world that is a gift from God, or keeping champagne production possible in Champagne. Authenticity is key; we want to see people who are like us, and care about the same things as we do, tell us that we can work together to protect those things. That’s why we can’t leave talking about climate change to environmental activists; their messages are relevant for people like them, but then again, people like them are in most cases already engaged.

Most importantly, these conversations need to happen and continue to happen, outside this bubble. Often they aren’t easy; at least I often inherently assume that no-one else is interested and that I come across as nagging, which is unlikely to be true. We need to create space, and have conversations, and make spaces for conversations that are appealing and create communities. The 2050 Climate Group has provided that for many of us; now we need to continue to spread it out to everyone else.

Youth at the Heart of the UN Negotiations

November 8th, 2016 Posted by Blogs, COP No Comment yet

It’s a pretty existential question to ask two weeks before we fly from Amsterdam and Oxford to Marrakech in Morocco (emitting much CO2) to attend this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) as civil society observers.

Individually, we have no real influence. We have no official voice. We are not decision-makers at the UN level or executives in large companies. We cannot make agreements happen a certain way. We cannot even make Ministers or Heads of States make agreements happen a certain way. But we do have a vision.

The choice is not whether we adapt to climate change, but how

No matter what happens, in Paris, or Marrakech, or at COP23 or any future COP, our world will be fundamentally altered by the reality that is climate change. Whether we continue with our ways as we always did and have to deal with levels of adaptation to climate change never before achieved by human civilisation, or whether we successfully transition to a low carbon world, there will be no business as usual option. We will be faced with a fundamental change of human society either way. This situation is very difficult to grasp.

Either we successfully transform our society, our energy systems and our way of life into one that is not only low but even ‘net-zero’ carbon, thereby significantly reducing emissions to zero quickly, or, we wait too long. We allow ourselves to be paralysed by short-termism and indecision of how to move forward and we end up taking drastic measures in a reactive way in order to adapt to our changing climate and changing home, unprecedented in the history of our society. There are certainly scenarios in between these two extremes, but the future is somewhere on this spectrum. We must expect a dramatic change in our way of life in the coming decades.

Even more difficult to grasp is that as ‘millennials’ these changes will happen in our lifetimes. Contrary to the narratives of some governments and businesses today, climate change is already happening and can be seen everywhere in the world. There is no such thing as business as usual in our world today.

The ‘millennial’ generation is positioned to rise to the challenge

The only way to not become paralysed by the fear of what the potentially disastrous future scenarios might look like is to accept the complexity of the challenge we are facing. We must wholeheartedly embrace the fundamental change and move forward. There is no part of our society that is more personally, socially, economically, and ethically invested in climate change than today’s young people – in every walk of life.

Our generation wants a low carbon world. We will be the ones living in it, we will be paying for it through our future taxes or consumer choices, we will be responsible for normalising use of it in our behaviours, we will have to fix it and upgrade it. We are, in this sense, not just an important stakeholder: we are THE most important stakeholder in the climate change negotiations.

However, our world continues to justify its short-termism through the mainstream narrative about the future and climate action. The more we frame climate change as a future problem, the more we create a cognitive distance of the public that allows us and our elected representatives in particular to continue to justify our inaction. Therefore, there is a conflict between promoting the narrative that prioritizes future generations and the behavioural ramifications of it. Because of this there must be an important distinction, between this future generations narrative and the real issue: considering future generations requires action in the present to integrate them into decision-making. In this way, there should actually be no distance between discussions about future generation’s impacted on by climate change and present action.

Our mission at COP

So what does attending COPs as an observer have to do with all this?

There is no-one better able to move beyond today’s short-termism than young people. However, current perceptions of young people engaging in this arena start and finish with an image of an activist or campaigner. We do not attend COP to campaign or demonstrate. In fact, it is precisely the opposite. We attend COP to show that there are young people that are ready, willing and able to participate constructively in the decision-making process, understanding and accepting its limitations while at the same time actively working towards solutions.

“We cannot wait to be given legitimacy. We need to legitimize ourselves.” We are in Marrakech to continue what we started in Paris and earlier to carve out our legitimacy in this world of international climate change discussions, multilateral negotiations and global governance arena. It is our firm belief that the only way that anyone in the history of humanity has been able to gain sustained influence is by building a courageous vision and showing the drive to achieve it steadily, but surely. The COP22 in Marrakech represents another vital opportunity to refine this vision, and play our part in ensuring we take the next crucial steps towards making it a reality.

By Elizabeth Dirth and Alexander Pfeiffer, delegates for Young European Leadership (YEL) at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Elizabeth is the current chair of the 2050 Climate Group, and Alex is a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School.

COP21 Video Diary

December 10th, 2015 Posted by COP No Comment yet

Richard Dryburgh created a video diary while at COP21. Watch below to get a good look into the life of a 2050 Group member at COP!