The Youth Who Took COP26 into their Own Hands
by Hannah Melville-Rea
Between 18 November – 1 December 2020, 330 youth delegates from 140 countries convened online to discuss climate solutions . The ‘Mock’ COP26 was a student-run alternative to the postponed UN climate summit, COP26. Participants made high-level country statements providing testimony for how global heating and the ecological crisis are already affecting them and their communities .
“We ran this conference with the question of ‘if youth were at the centre of the climate talks what would we do?’”, says Mana Saza, the Asia Coordinator for the event . The result was an ambitious, low-carbon and inclusive COP that led to the creation of a Declaration centered around climate justice, education, climate resilient livelihoods, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and protecting biodiversity  . Delegates were aged 11 to 30, 63% were female or non-binary and 72% were from the Global South . All activities were held online, in different time zones for a zero-carbon event.
Phase two of Mock COP26 involves working with governments to implement the Mock COP26 Treaty (Conference Declaration) [3,4]. The goal is for 30 countries to agree to implement at least one policy from the Mock COP26 treaty . In addition, Mock COP aims for greater youth representation in climate decision making. Saza says, “We are already discussing with COP26 on better methods to involve youth at COP26 on multiple levels: how to spread climate change knowledge amongst youth, how to grow momentum amongst academics around the world and methods of including youth at high-level decision making processes.” 
Takeaway from Mock COP26
With climate change, a common narrative is an intergenerational “us versus them”, but without all age-ranges participating in climate negotiations, we can never have an inclusive process. Mock COP26 was a hub to actively showcase the on-ground situation of the Global South and other minorities who are often at times heavily impacted by climate change, while building capacity in young people to take notice of global climate decision making.
References: Mock COP, URL: https://www.mockcop.org/, (last accessed 5 May 2021)
 Mock COP26: Africa High Level Country Statements, YouTube (2020). URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx13Owj1SHM&list=PL1LiRHp01O2jo74pHIYxKqosUCMaHUmEM, (last accessed 5 May 2021)
 Mock COP, Conference Declaration, (2020). URL: https://www.mockcop.org/treaty/, (last accessed 5 May 2021)
 Mock COP, About Us. URL: https://www.mockcop.org/about-us/, (last accessed 5 May 2021)
 Interview with Mana Saza, conducted online by the author Hannah Melville-Rae.
Featured image courtesy of MockCOP