'An incredible honour': 2 Edmonton youth heading to COP26 climate summit

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Youth take part in the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain, in 2019.  (Glen Edwards - image credit)
Youth take part in the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain, in 2019. (Glen Edwards - image credit)

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled "Our Changing Planet" to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 global climate summit, two Edmonton youth will have their voices heard.

Seventeen-year-old Franco-Albertan Océane Kahanyshyn-Fontaine and Jaeda Cardinal D'Auteuil, 18, who is Cree, head to the United Nations climate change conference Tuesday, as part of a group of six delegates chosen to present a global youth report on behalf of 35,000 students from over 50 countries.

"On one hand, it's very stressful. But on the other hand, I know that it is an incredible honour and privilege to be doing this," Cardinal D'Auteuil said.

Jaeda Cardinal D’Auteuil/Google Meet
Jaeda Cardinal D’Auteuil/Google Meet

"I feel like both parts of my Indigenous identity and my very modern Western identity have a place in this conversation. And even my identity as a young woman — I care about my future, I care about my planet and I also care about my peers."

The Conference of Parties (COP), as it's known, meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.

The summit will see negotiators from almost 200 countries try to tackle issues left hanging since the 2015 Paris climate accord was forged, and find ways to ratchet up their efforts to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 C this century compared with pre-industrial times.

Terry Godwaldt, executive director of The Centre for Global Education, said the youth report, called #Decarbonize: Global Youth Manifesto, is the culmination of "hundreds of thousands" of hours of work, over the past 10 years.

"The youth who have gone and have spoken over this decade have spoken so incredibly well and with such power and force calling for better from our planet leaders that it's an expectation that they would speak again," Godwaldt said.

Working on the project with Indigenous youth and children from countries hit hard by climate disasters has been an educational experience, Kahanyshyn-Fontaine said.

Océane Kahanyshyn-Fontaine/Google Meet
Océane Kahanyshyn-Fontaine/Google Meet

"Not every child is able to be like, 'You know what? This is wrong,' and not everyone is given the opportunity to voice their opinions and to voice what's going on in their community, so we have been so lucky to have been given that chance," she said.

"I am going to represent Canada, I'm going to have an impact and hopefully I'll get to change the world for the better."

Both Kahanyshyn-Fontaine and Cardinal D'Auteuil said they're disappointed with the actions and inaction of generations before.

"It's my job to correct the errors of the past, to acknowledge what has been done and to help move forward in terms of truth and reconciliation," Kahanyshyn-Fontaine said.

Cardinal D'Auteuil sees the declaration as an opportunity to do her part to take care of the earth for future generations.

"I think about my little cousins and how I want them to have a nice summer without wildfire smoke in the sky," she said. "I want to be able to pass down a planet that is loved."

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