Youths of COP: Joanna Read

Youths of COP: A brief Q&A with people met at COP23.

Q: Please tell me about yourself.

A: I studied Geography at university, and absolutely loved it, and there learned about the scientific facts of climate change and how humans are causing this sudden spike (as well as looking at climate trends over hundreds of thousands of years). In my final year, I started to want to do something about it, but I’d never been an ‘activist’ before, got the opportunity to go to Bonn May Intersessionals in 2014, and haven’t looked back since. I have been to 7 UNFCCC conferences now (including COP21 in Paris and two other COPs), always as part of the youth constituency of NGOs, and worked on other campaigns with the international team of UKYCC (the UK Youth Climate Coalition) in between conferences.

Joanna was the YOUNGO global north focal point from 2016 to 2017.

Q: What inspired you to be involved in the fight against climate change?

A: I knew I wanted to help make the world a better place than I found it, but there were so many issues I cared about, and climate change seemed to be either causing it, or making it worse, or bound up in all the injustices I saw in the world. And it was something that had solutions, we just need the political will to take them on, and the investment to strengthen them further, and movements working intersectionally to create social change for good as well.

Q: What is the topic you are following closely for COP23 and why?

A: I followed oceans during COP23 because well I love sea turtles, and the marine world fascinates me, but also the oceans are such a major carbon sink as well as being seriously affected by climate change (rising temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification etc.) that it seemed not enough emphasis was being placed on the ocean’s role within the climate negotiations, but was starting to be recognised this year.

Q: What is your typical day at COP like?

A: Up and ready for a YOUNGO meeting first thing, where I find out what I’m doing during the day when we run through the daily schedule. Then it’s usually a working group meeting. Followed by maybe an action (mini demonstration inside the conference center) or sit in on a negotiation and try to follow it! Lunch is usually squeezed in when running from one place to another, or meeting up with other youth organizations to discuss and share tactics and interests. The afternoon could be taken up by preparing for interventions (2-minute speeches that YOUNGO can give during the negotiations), or working on a blog/video with UKYCC or creating material for a YOUNGO press conference. And if there’s time – got to end the day with beer o’clock!

Q: Could you share a little on your work as one of the YOUNGO focal points?

A: Along with Nouhad, we were the contact points for the UNFCCC Secretariat (admin body) to convey information about all the meetings and intervention opportunities, which we would then pass on to the rest of the young people wanting to get involved with international climate politics (there are quite a few!) and pass back any requests, or questions from the youth constituency. But it is also being a point of contact and coordinator from within YOUNGO, and helping people make the most of the opportunities that you get from this weird and wonderful space.

Q: What are the key messages you would like to share with youths in general?

A: Get involved, however you can. Climate change is going to be the defining challenge of our lives, don’t you want to be part of the solution? If you can’t follow the negotiations in person or don’t understand the politics, then read some of the many summaries about what’s going on (ECO or Climate Tracker are good places to start) during the conferences. But don’t forget that politics starts at home. All the negotiators will come to the conferences with their red lines already set by the government back at home. We need to mobilize as many people to hold our representatives to account, and we do that in numbers. So talk to anyone and everyone about why you care about climate change, and you’ll find that other people get interested because you are, maybe not all, but every conversation helps and who knows where it might lead.

Content and Media Provided by Joanna Read

Edited and Arranged by Xiandi

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