Youth climate activists rally in Saskatoon as COP26 comes to an end today

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A climate rally was organized by young activists at Saskatoon City Hall on Friday calling for more climate action.  (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
A climate rally was organized by young activists at Saskatoon City Hall on Friday calling for more climate action. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

As world leaders wrapped up the United Nations' COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow on Friday, young activists were calling for more action at a rally outside of Saskatoon City Hall.

Lauren Wright, the founder of the Saskatoon Youth Climate Committee and a member of Climate Justice Saskatoon, stood in sub-zero temperatures with more than 20 activists and volunteers calling for change.

"To people who do have power, don't let us down," the 17-year-old Tommy Douglas Collegiate student said. "Do not leave us behind."

Wright said youth should mobilize.

Calls for change

"We truly need everyone to change everything. Whether it is taking part in a rally or contacting your local politician, you have power."

Wright was disappointed that youth and BIPOC activists were not as well represented at the summit as fossil fuel executives.

"For a climate conference, fossil fuel executives had a larger delegation than any individual country. There were twice as many fossil fuel lobbyists as Indigenous people," she said.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

While world leaders lauded the importance of youth involvement in climate action, many young activists were not allowed to participate, Wright said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to cut emissions as a part of the federal plan to meet and surpass Canada's goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Trudeau said Canada is prepared to limit the growth of oil and gas sector, one of the country's largest industries, to help the world hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"We'll cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net-zero by 2050," he said on Nov. 1.

Wright said that the deadline of 2030 holds a different significance to her. She feels anxious and exhausted and wonders if she is "missing out on being a teenager."

"For our world leaders, 2030 might be just one or two election terms from now. For me, I'd be 26 years old and just a few years out of university trying to find a career path. While it might be the same number of years for both of us, it does not have the same implications," Wright said.

LISTEN | Lauren Wright says youth not represented at COP26:

She wanted COP26 to develop a framework for mass divestments from fossil fuels on "a very accelerated timeline," earlier than the 2030 mark. She said the climate action needs to begin immediately to offset the crisis.

Earlier in the week, Premier Scott Moe blasted Trudeau's performance and proposals at COP26, a sign that the two are still at odds over climate policy and the way forward.

In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, Moe accused Trudeau of hypocrisy for flying to the conference "to lecture the rest of us about how we should change our behaviour."

Moe said Trudeau's plan to cap oil and gas emissions will impact "30,000 families in the province" and affect the province's GDP.

The premier tweeted that the federal government is implementing policies that will hurt the province and that he wants Saskatchewan to be a "nation within a nation" by increasing its autonomy in several areas.

Meanwhile, Wright said she's not happy with the provincial government either.

"There's a lot of disappointment with their continued denial and the idea that it's a later problem when it's very much a problem of today," she said.

"This is not optional when science shows that we need action now for the future. Then putting it off to ensure that you stay in power and retain your followers, you can't continue to do this and still hope to be seen as a leader."

She said the burden unfairly lies on youth to take action and mobilize — even if they can't vote yet.

Still, she urged politicians to address the crisis.

Nobody from Mayor Charlie Clark's office was available to comment on the rally.

Indigenous representation

Wright said Indigenous leaders who are "stewards of biodiversity" were also missing from COP26.

Rene Clarke, one of the attendees at the city hall rally, concurred with the sentiment, while holding an "Indigenous leadership now" placard.

"Land back is one of the most simple, effective and straightforward ways to combat climate change," the 24-year-old said. "It's literally just giving the land back to the indigenous people who have cared for it for a thousand years.

"Not enough colonizers are on board with Indigenous leadership. It's enough."

Pratyush Dayal/CBC
Pratyush Dayal/CBC

Clarke said systemic racism is delaying the climate change emergency.

"It's disgusting that we as colonizers who have all the power absolutely refuse to give any of that power back to the people whose land we are living on."

Clarke, who is the coordinator of pride centre at the University of Saskatchewan, said colonizer countries are one of the largest polluters and pipelines in the Indigenous communities are a reminder of that systemic racism.

Lexi Rowsell, who is Indigenous and was also at the rally, said it is upsetting to see world leaders missing on the mark.

"I would really like to see more Indigenous representation in leadership and in environmental activism especially [because] there's so much knowledge which we don't have access to due to cultural genocide," the 22-year-old said.

"The only way through the climate crisis is to go back and listen to Indigenous voices who have cared for this land and are connected to it."

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