As wildfires burned and temperatures rose, world leaders gathered in Katowice, Poland, to discuss how to put the Paris climate agreement into action. To outsiders, UN climate talks may seem like a positive step. Unfortunately, this is COP24.
For 24 years, world leaders have annually talked at each other instead of to one another in hopes of reaching an agreement on how to tackle the climate crisis. In all that time, they have barely scratched the surface of an issue that the world’s top climate scientists say we now have 12 years to stop.
These leaders are voluntarily blind to the suffering their decisions cause. Homes will be lost, families will be torn apart by displacement, and the sea will encroach upon whole societies. Developed countries like the US, corrupted by fossil fuel interests, are to blame.
UN negotiators have been trying to solve the climate crisis since before I was born. What will be the catalyst for people in power to do what is right? How many millions of people will have to die from climate damage such as drought, famine, superstorms and wildfires before world leaders commit to putting real solutions in place to defeat this crisis?
I’ve been doing this work for five years and have given up a lot to do what I know is right. I’ve given up personal finances, friendships, and a normal adolescence. Youth activists everywhere make personal sacrifices every day in order to protect the world we’ll inherit – even though our government can’t do the same for us.
Though political institutions have fallen short, being on the ground in Poland does offer hope: it proves the strength of people power. Politicians will never be the core of this movement. We need to turn our attention and our energy into communities that are helping themselves in the best ways that they can.
The marginalised communities on the front lines know what it actually means to make sacrifices for the sake of future generations and young people. They understand giving up their own comforts to protect lives.
That’s why, to fight the powers that hand away pieces of our environment for profit, we must enlist the people who have lived on the margins of society. People power will always be stronger than the people in power.
Victoria Barrett is a youth climate activist, and one of 21 young people who are suing the US government for failing to protect its citizens from climate change