Young activists at the climate summit in Glasgow are skeptical that global leaders will take decisive action to attack global warming.
In interviews with Spectrum News conducted in the first days of the summit, several young attendees at the COP26 conference suggested they are bracing for disappointment.
“I’m pretty afraid it's just empty words again,” said Xenia Gomm, a Stockholm University student.
“They have big words, and we’re yet to see how that translates to action,” said Šimon Michalčík, from the Czech Republic.
Around the conference site, young people are around every corner, demanding leaders go big and arguing their future is on the line.
“We are the people at the forefront of this crisis,” said Lily Aaron, an attendee from Chicago with the group “It’s our Future.”
"I'm already now afraid that the words were just empty promises again."— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) November 10, 2021
👇 Last week while at #COP26, @Maureen_McM and I spoke to several young climate activists, asking them whether they're optimistic that global leaders will take decisive action on climate change. pic.twitter.com/cmFntOxaOR
“The goal we have is actually to mobilize people and companies to plant 1 trillion trees,” Michalčík said. “If we plant 1 trillion trees, it can give us that additional time we desperately need to lower our emissions.”
Countries have already lined up behind different goals. President Joe Biden, for example, announced at the conference a U.S. pledge to reduce methane emissions and end deforestation in coming years.
The U.S. and China announced Wednesday that they will work together to reduce emissions.
But what if, at the end of the summit, leaders lack a concrete, transformational plan like youth activists want?
White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy said she encourages them “to keep pushing.”
“What they’ve done already has really awakened the United States. It’s given President Biden the ability to go after $550 billion for climate alone,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News.
However, the hundreds of billions of dollars in climate funding being pushed by the White House is still in limbo on Capitol Hill. It is part of the massive Build Back Better social spending and climate bill that Biden and Democratic leaders hope to push through with just Democratic votes.
In a closely split Congress, they have no margin of error.
McCarthy insists the president will get it done.
“Progressives voted for him. He has no intention of letting them down. Number 1, because he agrees with them. And number 2, because that’s going to be the future for anybody who wants to run in the United States of America. You’d best pay attention to what young people are saying,” she said.
"For anybody who wants to run [for office] in the USA, you'd best pay attention to what young people are saying."— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) November 10, 2021
👇 Last wk, I asked @ginamccarthy46 about youth activists & what she'd tell them if leaders don't agree to a climate action plan that meets their expectations #COP26 pic.twitter.com/dI9DnLlUfp
Paulina Sanchez, another activist with “Plant-for-the-Planet” at the conference, had this word of advice for young people fearful that world leaders will leave them disappointed: look for ways to make change on the local level.
“Try to engage more. And try to engage with the local situations and local stakeholders that will actually bring some possible solutions to the situation in your country,” she said.
Those are tall marching orders, with key deadlines to avoid climate disaster fast approaching.