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A Day in the Green Zone at COP26
(05/11/21)
Posted by : Cameron (UKSSN member), Scotland, S5/ Year 12

COP26 is more than just an opportunity for governments and powerful businesses to come together and make climate deals. It’s an opportunity for the people and for activism. It’s an opportunity to come together and share how climate change is affecting us and those around us, how we want to change and how we can change. I had the pleasure of going to the ‘Green Zone’ (a space for civil society groups to run events, stands and meet with members of the general public and official COP26 delegate) at COP26 with the UK Schools Sustainability Network and it was a fantastic experience.  

 

At COP26, the Green Zone was held at Glasgow Science Centre, just off the River Clyde.  We arrived on Friday. Every member of our group had only met briefly. When I arrived at the Science Centre, I was enamoured. I had been to the Science Centre earlier in my life on school trips, but the redecoration project was amazing. Art made by climate activists had been painted onto the walls, there were dozens of pop-up stands and the building was filled with life and conversation.  

 

I met with Will and Elena from the Midlands, Matty from Avon and Rishi from Surrey. Together we met with people who discussed how they hope to use hydro-power to create electricity on a mass scale, before we saw one of the amazing UKSSN staff mentors, David. David and one of the other fantastic mentors, Tom, were on the phone when we met with them. I didn’t realise the opportunity I was being given. David told me that we had the opportunity to be interviewed on STV (Scottish ITV), as they wanted to speak with young people. Will, David, Matty and I all walked down to meet with Tom, only to find that they only wanted Scottish pupils. As the only Scottish member of the UKSSN’s Glasgow trip at that time, it was my job. I pulled a shirt and blazer over my T-shirt and focused on the woman interviewing me. When I finished, I was told that I should look out for it at six o'clock. After several nights of checking for my interview on TV I realised that I wouldn't be on (we all learned at COP26 the hard way about interviews being postponed, curtailed, cancelled or not aired). But at the time, I was thrilled. We did another interview, this time focusing on a die-in outside Bank of America, led by doctors. This interview was done by ourselves. Tom and Matty posed the questions to us and recorded them, to submit to the news organisation, whilst Will and I answered.  

 

We then went outside. The outside area was dedicated mainly to Green Transportation and how we could recreate cars and buses to not only be carbon neutral, but also be safer, as the self-driving cars would use bluetooth to ensure it didn’t crash. During lunch, we met up with most of our group. I was disappointed by the plastic containers at the food and was sceptical about how they disposed of it, as we either placed it in a bin on campus, or a member of the COP26 staff would take it from us. However, the food was good and they offered great options if you were vegan or vegetarian.  

 

After lunch, a group hung back to meet with Lauren, one of the PPL PWR team, our partners for our Green Zone stand the next day (read more about our Pupil Power Roadshow here), who led us in a brief guided meditation and discussion. We then separated off. Sophie from Avon was due to attend a conference with me and a few others, but that didn’t start until a while later. But when Jack from Somerset, Grace from London and Abi from Yorkshire turned up, we were good to go and went to the conference. The conference focused on policy making and as it was youth empowerment day, the people running the sessions tried to appeal to young people by telling them to use their vote and to go into politics, to get the job done themselves. Afterwards, we went with Paula (another fabulous UKSSN staff mentor) down to the foyer, to meet the young winners of a photography competition, who had come up from England. They were both much younger than us, primary school students. We then decided to make the most of being in the Green Zone. We took a picture at the entrance, where there was a world map covered made out of moss. I don’t know how it happened, but we somehow ended up in a conversation with another group like us - Send Our Friend To School. We all exchanged social media accounts and this brief encounter means that we’re still in contact. We then returned to visiting stalls. I took the others to see the carbon neutral bus where we were given tons of free sweets in paper bags. We made pledges to reduce our use of hot water and we learnt more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint with your diet. 

I can’t wait to return tomorrow to help run our Green Zone Pupil Power Roadshow exhibition exploring climate anxiety, valuing green spaces and energy storage solutions with PPL PWR in our bespoke UKSSN-Planetary youth artwork t-shirts! You can also check out our digital Pupil Power Roadshow — Google Arts & Culture

 

Overall, the Green Zone was an amazing experience that I will never forget. There are too many people to thank who managed to ensure all of this happened, so if you were involved, thank you so much.  

 

Written  by Cameron, a S5/ Year 12 student from Scotland

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