“Listen to younger people, as it is their world you’re shaping”: student voices at Climate Exp0

Siobhán Stack-Maddox

Artwork: Dr Cécile Girardin

Ahead of the Climate Exp0 conference, we asked our student advisory board of 550 students about their expectations for the conference and COP26.

The responses show a lot of enthusiasm and optimism for the week ahead, which offers what the students describe as ‘a broader and inclusive platform for perspectives sharing’ and ‘a forum where student voices are heard’.

The majority are looking forward to gaining insights into the latest climate research, the policy landscape and policymaking, as well as the opportunity to expand their network and connect with others.

Many of the students are interested in several of Climate Exp0’s overarching day themes, with Adaptation and Resilience (Thursday 20th May) coming out as the one that they are most looking forward to.

As well as being eager to broaden their knowledge of the issues at stake, the students are enthusiastic about finding out how to take action and get others involved. One said , “I am really looking forward to connecting with others who are keen to take action on climate change from a variety of perspectives.” Another emphasised their hope that Climate Exp0 will “create a network of like-minded researchers and practitioners” enabling future collaboration.

Panel discussions and policy sessions are the events that the students told us that they are most looking forward to. In terms of topics, they are especially interested in finding out more about COP26 and climate negotiations. Nature, ecosystems, climate justice and just transition were also highlighted as key issues which they want to see addressed during the conference.

When we asked ‘What one message would you most like to give to the global decision-makers at COP26?’, the responses were particularly powerful. Here are just a few of them:

“The youth of the planet are watching and learning from your leadership at this critical moment.”

“There will never be a better opportunity to turn the tide on climate change. Do not let it pass you by. The world and its peoples need you to make this work now. Be brave, be bold and seize the moment. The health and prosperity of the human species is in your hands.”

“The window of opportunity is closing, and extraordinary structural changes need to take place.”

“Wake up and smell the coffee. You have limited time to avert a crisis, the solutions to which will lead to a more equitable and better functioning global society, yet you still pander to vested interests. Remember whom you serve.”

“Meaningful action now — not just ‘thoughts and prayers!’ Enough virtue-signalling!”

“There are many routes that we can take to all contribute and have an impact, but it is a global effort.”

“Act now to save the future.”

A big thank you to all of the students who took the time to share their thoughts with us. We are very much looking forward to hearing your contributions this week.

Climate Exp0 is the first virtual conference from the COP26 Universities Network and the Italian University Network for Sustainable Development (RUS), sponsored by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Cambridge University Press, the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI), and the 2021 UN Climate Change Summit (COP26).

Running from 17–21 May 2021, it takes place at a critical juncture in the COP26 pre-meetings and negotiations, and is part of the All4Climate Italy 2021 official pre-COP26 initiatives. Learn more and register your place via https://www.climateexp0.org.

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Climate Exp0

Climate Exp0 was the first virtual conference from the COP26 Universities Network and the Italian University Network for Sustainable Development (RUS).