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Malaika Collette, a 17-year-old Canadian part of a youth delegation urging world leaders to do more about climate change.

Malaika Collette/handout

With the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) postponed because of COVID-19, youth from around the globe have taken it upon themselves to hold an inclusive online conference in its place, Mock COP26. The conference will take place Nov. 19 - Dec. 1, showcasing youth speakers and panelists, a policy panel and the presentation and creation of individual country statements.

With activists participating from as many as 140 countries, the conference is set to end with a powerful global statement to world leaders from the youth of the world, raising ambition for COP26 now being held in 2021.

Everyone deserves a safe planet, clean water, clean air and a livable future, and everyone deserves to have their voice not only heard, but taken seriously. Even if they are only a child.

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The United Nations postponed its conference so instead of accepting that, we did it ourselves because we deserve and are entitled to a safe future. Climate change can’t be postponed and there is no time to wait in creating aggressive and fast-moving plans to ensure this planet is safe for generations to come.

This conference gives the world a chance to see what kind of decisions would happen if youth ran COP and what we hope to see come out of COP26.

Governments should have taken greater action years ago. We are rapidly reaching a tipping point beyond which we will be unable to reverse the damage caused by our inaction. We can still make the changes we need to make, but our window of opportunity is narrowing, and it is critical that we take meaningful action now. We don’t need more words – we need bold actions to address this crisis.

Why is Mock COP26 important?

It is important because we don’t have the time to wait. COVID-19 and other pandemics will continue to increase as the globe warms. We need to work harder because of COVID-19 – not relax.

Mock COP is also important because often at global events such as COP, the communities that are most affected by the climate crisis and all of its intersectionalities are not the ones who are highlighted. Mock COP will allow those from the most affected people and places to make their voices heard.

One major theme at the event will be climate education – its importance, accessibility and how it can be implemented. Presenter Aishwarya Puttur says as an Indian-Canadian youth who has travelled to many places growing up, she has seen the various effects climate change has on the world and its people.

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She says she is shocked by how many people are unaware of this crisis that will decide the fate of not just our future, but also our present, and how privileged some places are over others. Canada is a prime example of this, yet Canada is doing very little to fight the climate crisis.

Jana Jandal Alrifai, a delegate for Syria, says that as a Muslim, she believes it is her job to care for the Earth and fight for what’s right and as a youth she has seen inaction. As a Syrian-Canadian, Jana says she understands the opposing states of privilege that her countries are in: Syria is locked in a war and its people are already suffering from a shortage of food, water and basic necessities, which only becomes harder with climate change.

Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest challenge we are all facing and it will always remain a dead end if we continue to ignore the inclusion of all, the participation of all and engage in co-operation, multilateralism and embrace nature-based solutions.

Finally, Canada is home to the world’s most destructive oil operation, the oil sands. Canada continues to call itself a climate leader while actively fighting to expand the world’s largest industrial project.

We cannot make any progress toward a green future while the oil sands continue to operate. We are not on track to meet our 2020 carbon emission-reduction target let alone our 2030 one because of the oil and gas sector. One of the demands from the Canadian delegates is that the Canadian government phase out all fossil fuels by 2030; this includes not just coal but also oil and natural gas.

The youth are not ready to watch climate action be delayed any longer. The time for action is now.

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World leaders, are you watching?

Jana Jandal Alrifai (Syria-Canada), Malaika Collette (Canada), Macius Djivenson (Haiti), Jamie Hunter (British Columbia), Sophie Price (Ontario), Aishwarya Puttur (Canada) and Abigail Steeves (Nova Scotia) are youth delegates at the Mock COP26 conference. You can watch Mock COP26′s speakers, panels, ceremonies and presentations here. The full program for the event can be found here.

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