Connect4Climate was honored to oversee a #YouthTakeover at COP25 featuring the four rising climate communicators who won this year's Global Youth Video Competition! All four of these winners—Callie Broaddus, Raquel Gaião Silva, Rafael Forsetto and Kiane Assis—share memories from the conference, and what the experience meant to them, in their own words in the reflections below:
It took ten minutes to walk from one end of Madrid’s IFEMA conference center to the other—that is, if we didn’t stop to snag the handout of tree-planting chocolate, sing a carol with “Sustaina-Claus,” read the signs at the daily youth protests, or listen to the 20 indigenous people demonstrating in the entrance hall. It was a massive event, and for first-time COP-goers, a tad overwhelming.
This year’s Global Youth Video Competition had four winners, so Connect4Climate’s #YouthTakeover was a group effort. We connected each morning over WhatsApp to determine who would cover and attend which events (the size of the conference center often made it inconvenient to meet in person). The joint effort meant that we could each cover events specifically related to our own fields of work. For me, this meant attending events on nature-based solutions and biodiversity; for Rafael and Kiane, events on social justice and migration; and for Raquel, all things ocean.
The panels I attended repeatedly stressed several key points: We need to protect our tropical and temperate forests; prevent exploitation of our peatlands, wetlands, and marine kelp forests; and plant trees in bulk if we’re to make sizable strides toward climate commitments. Given that we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis—one often called the sixth mass extinction—I expected discussions on the balance between climate and ecosystems to be more prominent on panels, and less audience-generated.
One common thread that wove each panel together was a vocabulary of UN-centric terms and acronyms: CBD, UNFCCC, UNCCD, NDCs, SDGs and more.The ability to decipher this mass of letters proved essential to comprehending every panel—and even most coffee-line conversations.
Having the opportunity to attend and document COP from a “youth climate reporter” point of view was incredibly valuable for my personal understanding of conservation on an international scale. Having an energized and diverse team enabled each of us to both cover the event comprehensively and leave with strong personal takeaways. For my part, I’ll be making an acronym dictionary and lining up my biodiversity-related audience questions before attempting to navigate COP26.
RAQUEL GAIÃO SILVA
I am back home and I still can’t believe what happened during my time at COP25. Two weeks listening to alarming information and talking about nature-based solutions. Two weeks witnessing testimonials of populations already being impacted by climate change. Two weeks listening to scientific reports that demand action starting yesterday. Two weeks nourishing the desire for greater ambition. Two weeks that felt like months.
Over those two weeks, I experienced myriad situations I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams, from meeting Sylvia Earle in the corridor and telling her my thoughts on ocean-based climate solutions to interviewing and discussing climate finance with the Managing Director of the World Bank to speaking with the Administrator of the UNDP, who so avidly listened to our stories with full attention.
It was an intense and inspiring ride. And the most amazing part is that even if I didn’t meet such interesting people, the simple fact of having UNFCCC and the Connect4Climate team there to answer the million questions I had with kind smiles was all I could ask for.
These two weeks will stay on my mind for a long time to come, and will definitely influence my next projects, my next actions, and my next steps.
Before going to COP25, I had the impression that it would be a very technical conference, full of charts and data. These thoughts left me somewhat apprehensive, since I come from a communications background and didn’t know much about the scientific aspects of climate change. That all changed once I arrived in Madrid. As soon as I got to IFEMA, the sheer size of the conference amazed me. It occurred to me that there was much more to climate talks than just numbers and charts; every day there were dozens of events touching on all kinds of topics.
COP25 brought to my attention many aspects of climate change that I hadn’t previously considered. What most interested me were its impacts on society and individuals. I sought out events focused on how climate change will influence migration in the coming years, with people fleeing coastal regions due to rising sea levels. These events did a great job not only raising awareness about these critical issues, but also starting discussions and generating solutions to them. The best part of COP for me was seeing so many like-minded individuals banding together and working towards the same purpose: a better future beyond the climate crisis.
COP25 was a turning point in my life. I come from a small town where youth, especially girls and women, do not possess an active voice in society. I admit that I got nervous once I saw the magnitude of the conference and thought about all the important people in attendance.
However, in my first few hours there, I had the chance to hear Niclas Svenningsen from Global Climate Action speak. It was so inspiring to hear someone like him tell the youth that we need to act now.
Immediately afterwards, youth from all over the world spoke with conviction about their values and the transformative actions they were undertaking. It made me feel like I had a place in this movement. It became clear to me that we, the youth, have to speak and act with courage and determination if we want to change the world!
The recognition we received for our work really demonstrated to me how important communication is when it comes to inspiring others to take meaningful climate action. It’s how we can make ourselves heard within society, and the time that my colleague Rafael and I spent at COP25 has inspired us for our next environmental project.
Thank you UNFCCC, UN Biodiversity, UNCDB and Connect4Climate for this opportunity and for inspiring me to continue fighting for a better, cleaner future. We will continue making our voices heard because #WeAreAction!