“It’s Our Future” youth climate activism program expands to Evanston; Evanston youth invited to participate in Nov. 4 global livestream from summit When Rachel Rosner and ETHS senior Lily Aaron arrive at the 26th United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow on Sunday, it will be a proud and milestone moment for the president of Citizens' Greener Evanston. Climate activist Rosner has been working to expand "It's Our Future," the youth-driven, climate justice program of the 20-year-old, OakPark-based environmental nonprofit, Seven Generations Ahead, to the North Shore. And now Rosner, its program consultant, gets to ensure Evanston youth voices are part of the global conversation on climate change. “It's Our Future is now breaking into Evanston through me, so we are taking one ETHS senior to Glasgow, Scotland,” said Rosner, whose 13-year-old Evanston organization was formed in 2008 by volunteers who worked with city officials on Evanston's first climate action plan. Learn more about them here. “Historically, the program has been Oak Park-based, and now it’s expanding to Chicago and Evanston. Lily is on the board of Citizens’ Greener Evanston. She is one of five youth — three others from Oak Park, and one from Chicago, along with two Chicago Public Schools teachers, traveling to COPS26.” COPS26 refers to the official name of the summit. Hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy, the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties is taking place October 31-November 12. Coming at a pivotal moment in the climate crisis, COP26 will bring together officials from almost every country on earth, in the goal of reining in runaway climate change – the mission of the annual summit for nearly three decades. Rosner and Aaron and the It’s Our Future delegation will be among world leaders, tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens arriving in Glasgow for twelve days of talks. “The very essence of the climate crisis is an injustice issue. It’s about climate justice. The countries that are causing the worst of it are not the same countries that are suffering the greatest consequences, so that’s largely the global South — and that’s more people of color, and more people in poverty, the poorest countries,” notes Rosner. This year’s conference carries unique urgency, against lack of progress on the Paris Agreement forged in 2015, where for the first time ever, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to below 2 degrees — aiming for 1.5 degrees. And nations agreed to make adaptations to mitigate impacts of the changing climate, making money available to fund those efforts. The aim for 1.5 degrees is important because every fraction of a degree of global warming results in lives lost and decimation of livelihoods, according to UN scientists. “COP21 in 2015 was where the Paris Climate Agreement was written. So this has been 26 years that world leaders have been meeting about what are we going to do about climate change; that tells you something. And now reports are showing we’re at ‘code read for humanity,’” said Rosner, referring to an August report finding the earth is getting so hot that within the next decade, its temperatures will likely surpass the level of warming the summits have sought to prevent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which stipulates climate change is human-caused and “an established fact,” finds that climate warming — under each of five scenarios based on carbon emissions reduction levels — would still all surpass the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree threshold by the 2030s; way earlier than past predictions. With data showing earth has already warmed nearly 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Paris Agreement, the U.N. called the report a "code red for humanity." “The governments of different nations made commitments about what they’re going to do to reduce their carbon emissions, and they need to reduce them enough to keep the temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the headline on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was clear: We’re at Code Red For Humanity,” Rosner said.
Photo: Lily (left, middle) with other youth from Oak Park and Chicago who will be attending the Climate Summit in Glasgow.
Under the Paris Agreement, each country committed to establishing a national plan for reducing carbon emissions, and to update them every five years with the highest possible ambitious goals for each nation. Delayed by the pandemic prohibiting last year’s summit, COP26 is where all nations will reveal updates on their emission reduction plans for the decade leading up to 2030 — now considered a crucial period.
“What’s special is that Lily and these other four Illinois high-school students will have observer status to the actual negotiations between these countries,” said Rosner.
“And there’s 30,000 people from around the world coming to Glasgow, so these youth, including Lily, will meet youth climate activists from around the world,” she added, noting youth in Evanston and around the world can still make their voices heard from their hometowns, via a youth event taking place via Zoom, on Thursday, November 4, at 4 p.m. Central.
They can register to participate in “Youth Voices on Climate: COP26 & Beyond,” here.
“Our event that Thursday night is a youth-driven event. I’ve been on these calls with a dozen high-school students from across the United States that are putting this together. They are among the global organizers of this livestream event, so it's very youth-focused. We have a young man from Nigeria who will be in conversation with these youth, and more,” said Rosner.
“Both It’s Our Future and the livestream event are all about lifting up youth voices who are on the frontlines of this issue. So I encourage all Evanston youth to plan on joining the conversation, and to follow @iofyouth on social media. This program sends its delegation every year, so if students from Evanston get involved, they have the potential to be the ones going to future climate summits.”