Youth-led Mock COP26 presents an ambitious treaty for climate action

Youth climate activists in Rzeszow, Poland, 25 September 2020. (Keystone/Darek Delmanowicz)

After two weeks of walking in the shoes of world political leaders, the youth-led “mock COP26” climate summit published its conclusions on Tuesday, detailing an ambitious plan to tackle the climate challenge. 

With the United Nations’ COP26 climate talks that were due to be held in Glasgow this year postponed until 2021, young climate activists decided to take action into their own hands. More than 330 campaigners representing 140 countries met virtually from 19 November to 1 December to discuss the climate emergency.

The initiative produced a treaty stating 18 principles, prepared with the help of a legal team so that governments can adopt it. The campaigners have invited countries to register their intention to implement their policies and will spend the next months in the run-up to COP26 urging them to act.

James Thornton, chief executive and founder of ClientEarth who was part of the legal team, said to the Guardian:

“The youth behind Mock Cop26 have created a powerful statement calling on governments to take action to protect future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.”

The conference highlighted young people’s concerns and the lack of political will up until now to address the climate emergency. In their conclusions, the campaigners called on world leaders to toughen regulations for polluting business activities and to hold legally responsible those who do not comply with these rules. They also urged governments to provide stronger support for education on the climate crisis and physical and mental health related to climate issues.

You can also read: Young and older generation of climate activists speak out at summit about the future of our planet

The climate activists debated different topics including climate justice, climate education, health, resilience and nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are national commitments to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris agreement.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Each country should ensure that children learn about the climate crisis but also about their connection to nature, for instance through indigenous peoples’ knowledge.

  • The text also demands harsher laws such as introducing the crime of ecocide, imposing sustainable practices on polluting businesses, and punishing those who make false claims against climate change.

  • Regarding mental health, the document highlights the problem of “eco-anxiety” particularly in children and asks governments to fund prevention and treatment for this condition.

  • The campaigners also call for countries to phase out fossil fuel energy production as well as non-essential single-use plastic.