Youth activists vow to continue climate work despite COP26 setback

Quezon City – Giving the recently concluded 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a failing mark, Filipino youth climate activists vowed to continue driving the work of the climate movement towards a just and sustainable world that stays below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.


This was highlighted during the 20th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled Not Voiceless, But Unheard: Exploring the Role of Youth in COP and Beyond.

The two-week global climate change conference wrapped up on 14 November with the Glasgow Climate Pact that left climate activists across the world, including Climate Reality Philippines, disappointed as it fell short of including a provision to “phase out” coal, develop a joint plan that will ensure the yearly delivery of the committed $100-billion climate finance to developing countries, and set up specific facilities for reparation for the communities enduring the impacts of developed world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

COP26: Pass or fail?

Asked what grade they would give COP26, Climate Reality Leader Patrick Ryan Bello said he will give it a “4,” which is considered a “conditional failure” in the University of the Philippines’ grading system.

Bello is a  member of the C40 Global Youth & Mayors Forum, a first-of-its-kind platform that brings together 14 youth climate leaders and six (6) mayors to work together to shape how the vision of a Global Green New Deal can be made a reality in cities across the world.

“I’m giving this grade because the climate change issue has been with us for a long time and up to this day, global leaders are yet to implement radical solutions and changes,” Bello explained, noting that there is still no consensus on providing climate finance to vulnerable developing countries—an important aspect of climate justice.

Xian Guevarra of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), gave the COP26 a grade of “5” or a failing mark. Reiterating Bello’s point that the climate crisis has been here for many decades now and he noted that science has long been telling us what to do to address the problem.

“Science has told us what to do. Phase out fossil fuels, invest in renewables, provide reparations for Global South countries. Everything is there,” Guevarra said.

Sophia Caralde of environmental consultancy group Parabukas, meanwhile, lamented on the missed opportunity of COP26 to be more inclusive, citing the recent Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity that provided virtual options for observant parties.

“We are in unison that [COP26] is very white, very privileged, and lacking representation of all sectors, especially from the Global South. But I’m not surprised. The COP has always been [not inclusive] to the Global South because it’s so expensive to fly out and usually go to this first-world country. Where do we get funds if our resources are being used to adapt to climate change and to basically survive the next typhoon,” she explained.

The work of the youth continues

While the youth climate advocates expressed disappointment on COP26, they are also holding out hope and planning to intensify their efforts on climate education, grassroots mobilization for climate solutions, and lobbying for systemic changes.

Caralde shared that Parabukas is working to broaden its reach on other youth organizations through the Local Conference of the Youth (LCOY) Philippines.

First conducted in September this year, LCOY is dubbed as the most comprehensive gathering of youth in the Philippines to discuss pressing climate and environmental issues. The conduct of another LCOY next year, according to Caralde, is being considered by Parabukas.

“LCOY is already part of the UNFCCC processes. It is approved by the LCOY Working Group under YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC,” Caralde explained as she calls for collaboration with different youth organizations in the country.

As for the United Nations (UN) Youth Advisory Board, its chairperson Abigail Kitma—an Ibaloy-Igorot from Baguio City—said that they will continue to bring forward the climate change agenda before the UN agencies. “We will continue engaging in different policy processes, not only for indigenous peoples, indigenous youth, indigenous women, etc,” she said.

Guevarra, meanwhile, shared that YACAP plans to continue its climate education series for the grassroots sectors.

“We are creating modules for farmers and fisherfolk. We are developing this with them because there are things that they know more when it comes to articulating the climate crisis for the basic sectors,” he shared.

In light of the 2022 National Elections, Guevarra also shared that YACAP plans to initiate the development of a climate agenda—a manifesto that will reflect what the youth wants from its next set of leaders in terms of climate action. “Once we created a climate agenda for 2022, we will decide if we are going to endorse a certain candidate or not,” he said.

Voting for the right leaders is definitely a must when it comes to solving the climate crisis, said Jacques Fallaria of Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines.

“The youth will inherit the planet. We cannot enjoy a planet that is dying, that’s why we want to preserve it for our future’s sake. This is why I invite everyone to vote for the right leaders—leaders who will prioritize the environment, the welfare of the Filipino people, and the future of the youth,” Fallaria said.