WECF at COP26 – EU Side Event on Youth Engagement

Glasgow – 11/11/2021 – WECF’s Rebecca Heuvelmans took part in the European Union Side Event panel discussion at COP26 titled “9 Years Left to 2030: Bringing in Young European and Global Voices.”

The conversation, hosted by the Italian Climate Network’s Jacopo Bencini, featured Mavuto Banda, PHD Candidate at the University of Hull giving a perspective from Malawi. Also partaking in the panel discussion were two inspiring young activists called Mollai Hughes and Terna Hoi from the Send My Friend to School campaign, demanding global education for children in particular those impacted by climate change.

Kicking off the panel was Rebecca Heuvelmans with a reflection on her experience at the climate march in the Netherlands. It became clear from this march – 40.000 people strong –  that it is youth who are leading this movement. WECF believes in empowering youth to become true ecofeminists, which is why “just last month we launched our ‘Climate Justice Toolkit for Youth,’ during our “Climate Justice needs Young Feminists” SPARK event,” Rebecca shares. The toolkit provides accessible explanations of climate processes but also theory on the link between feminism and climate action. “As you know, not everybody is hit as hard by this climate crisis. Women are specifically disproportionally impacted by climate change and are also not heard enough during climate change negotiations – as are youth.” Mavuto echoed Rebecca’s message on the differentiated experiences of climate change later on his speech, stressing the vulnerability of women and poor people in rural areas in Malawi in this climate crisis, but also the importance of listening to local communities who have the knowledge from the ground.

We brought this message on the need for intersectional feminist climate justice to the climate march in the Netherlands and in Glasgow, walking as part of the gender block. Rebecca then pulled out the pink “Feminist Climate Justice” mask from the Women and Gender Constituency color campaign, representing their demand for Intersectional Feminist Climate Action. This powerful campaign highlighting the WGC COP26 Key Demands had spread throughout the COP venue, even host Jacopo got out one of these masks during the panel.

“Besides talking about youth engagement, as an ‘engaged youth myself’ I feel obliged to stress the real worries that myself and others face who are not able to be here present at COP,” Rebecca declares. Many “false solutions,”  are out there that distract from the need to acutely stop with fossil fuels, but on a positive note “real, local, gender-just solutions” already exist. One of our previous winners from the Gender Just Climate Solutions Award; Trupti Jain, is a powerful example of the sort of initiative that should receive funding instead of “unjust carbon offset projects.”

“So there is much to do, not in nine years, right now.” For all of this change to happen, Rebecca stresses – in solidarity with the message from the #MissingVoicesCOP26 campaign by the Women and Gender Constituency, –  it is essential that the voices from everybody, including indigenous people, people from the lgbtq+ community, BIPOC people, youth and women are not forgotten but actively included. Mollai Hughes and Terna Hoi in their powerful plea on education also touched on this need for “inclusive participation of children and youth in climate policy.” Their voices are amongst those that need to be heard.

As a final call to action Rebecca shares: “I feel like youth are ready to stand up for intersectional, feminist climate justice, so I would implore you all to be ready too!”

Watch the full panel discussion – including the video from the World Climate March – HERE (Go to 9.19 to hear Rebecca Heuvelmans’ first remarks)