Tufts delegates who attended the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow expressed concern that the international negotiations fell short of the action needed to curb the most cataclysmic impacts of climate change.
“In many ways, I believe that we have passed numerous points of no return, and I know many others I met while I was there felt the same way,” said Brigid Deegan, F22, who was part of the Tufts delegation of about two dozen students and alumni who participated in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. Deegan attended the first week of the two-week summit, which ended November 13.
“I was, however, deeply moved by other youth activists, Indigenous communities, and historically marginalized groups that I met and listened to throughout the week,” she said. “Their conviction and drive to keep moving forward despite underwhelming deliverances from the [negotiating] parties gave me the peace of mind that there are good people in the world who are out in the field now doing the thankless work that must be done without waiting for the go-ahead by more powerful actors.”
Here Deegan and three other members of the delegation share their observations of the historic negotiations and their hopes for the future.
Clara Cho, N22
Clara Cho, N22, is earning a master’s degree at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, focusing on agriculture, food, and the environment.
Going into COP26, I did not have any expectations beyond my doubt that negotiations would succeed in setting us on the path towards limiting warming to 1.5˚C [above pre-industrial levels]. The new Nationally Determined Contributions are still not enough.
The strong youth presence at COP26, and seeing their engagement with side events, pavilion talks, and the negotiations, has given me a lot of hope for the future. Outside of the conference, seeing the massive, largely youth-led protests calling for urgent, aggressive action on climate change has also given me hope, but of a different sort. I agreed with the sentiments of the youth protestors, namely that climate action is not happening fast enough, and while their protesting was uplifting, I still worry that it will not have the necessary impact.
Being an observer at COP26 has made me feel responsible for holding people, ranging from leaders to nonprofits and companies, accountable after witnessing the strong statements and pledges for climate action that were being made.
One of the biggest things that surprised me is that the UK presidency of COP has pledged to make COP26 the first carbon-neutral COP, with an extensive note outlining the standards that will be used to account for all emissions and their offsets. This shocked me because the event is happening on an enormous scale, and I doubt that all of the associated emissions can truly be accounted for. I intend to follow up and see how successful they are.
After experiencing this week at COP26, where I listened to people repeatedly stating that agriculture is both part of the problem and the solution for climate change, I found myself feeling affirmed in both my education pathway and my desired career path. This area of study is hugely important both now and for the future as climate change continues.
Written by Samuel VanderMeulen, A22