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Viewpoint / A cleaner and greener future is possible

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 UN climate summit, Celestine Verdcourt-Lawrence of Shetland Eco Youth calls on governments to stop pretending and start working seriously towards a net zero future

Celestine Verdcourt-Lawrence.

AS A young person who has grown up in Shetland, the environment has always been a big part of my life.

We are lucky to live where nature surrounds you with every step you take and growing up around this beautiful environment, it is a shame to see people taking it for granted.

At COP26 all the world leaders are coming together in November to agree on how to work collaboratively to respond to the ongoing climate emergency.

The UN had issued a Code Red for Humanity. Young people from around the world are becoming increasingly aware that the climate is set to become very dangerous in our lifetime and that not enough is being done to safeguard our future.

Being a young climate activist, I have been let down with the way the government has done things.

I am anxious what the outcome of COP26 will be. When talking to other eco-minded people one thing that always comes up is the eco-anxiety that they carry. The uncertain fear that people carry is insane.

So, when these big environmental events happen there is always that little voice at the back of your mind. And we can only make real change if we strictly stick to what is said at this event.

Whilst governments are the ones who have a say in the major changes that will happen, we all can make small changes in our life to cut down on carbon. Everyone has a part to play, and maybe you aren’t doing it perfectly but if everyone does it imperfectly, we have a real chance to reach our net zero goals.

The first ever COP was in 1995. And despite COPs happening every year since, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase. Given that the first 25 COP have been all talk and no action, I am not convinced that we will see anything difference at this one. I hope I am wrong!

I would love to believe Boris Johnson’s promises when he said he would deliver change but looking at the evidence of how he managed the pandemic in the UK I am not holding out much hope.

Like many older white men of his background, he is insulated against the more devastating effects of climate change. Boris Johnson has benefitted from the global system of consumerism, unlike the hundreds of women who died in the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013 whose families are now threatened by climate related flooding and famine.

All because of fast fashion – the textile industry contributes 10 per cent of greenhouse gases according to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC).

For me personally I see fast fashion as a real threat to the environment. I want governments to make sure fast fashion brands are producing more sustainable/eco-friendly clothing and that they look after their sweatshop workers by paying them fairly and providing them with safer working conditions. This model should be reflected across all industries.

I also want to be able to recognise that the UK government are serious about working towards a net-zero future by not going ahead with the Cambo oilfield. We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we are going to reach our goal.

At this COP we need a completely new structure of how we tackle climate change and that means governments need to take the lead. Whilst the government have a huge part to play in this new change, so do people at home. We saw this during the Covid pandemic when everyone’s lives changed overnight.

Over this time, we saw a massive environmental improvement, including air pollution in major cities and the canals in Venice were clear for the first time in years with fish returning to the usually murky waters.

With co-ordinated action from governments and people around the world a cleaner, greener future is possible.