COP26 Notes: Day 5 – Youth Day, Secretary Deb Haaland and Oceans

Good morning from Glasgow! I really wanted to avoid long lines today, so I got up early and took the train into the Scottish Exhibition Center, arriving around 7am. It was great to be able to get in so early to get some work done in the morning, particularly because I don’t have WiFi where I’m staying. I found a warm spot, drafted the November issue of the Second Nature Monthly Policy Updates (check out past newsletters here!) and caught up on some emails I had fallen behind on. 

I started my morning by attending a press conference on factory farming held by Compassion in World Farming. It was a really phenomenal event, and I got to ask a question about environmental justice and animal agriculture, as well as why the issue of animal agriculture was so overlooked in the international climate conversation. 

After that, I attended an event on Elevating Indigenous Youth hosted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, featuring Secretary Deb Haaland, the first American Indian to be appointed to a Secretary position. I was thrilled to go to this event as Secretary Haaland is one of my favorite US politicians and an enormous source of inspiration 

“Young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow,” she told an overflowing room in the U.S. Center. “You are the leaders of today. In many ways, you are the adults in the room. You truly understand what you are up against.” 

The event had a really cool format; Indigenous youth from around the world submitted videotaped questions directed toward different members of the panel, and you could vividly see where they were calling in from and their direct surrounding environment. 

Secretary Haaland discussed what the Biden Administration is doing to support Indigenous communities, while avoiding speaking for them. “One of the things we are doing at the Department of Interior is administering grant funds so that local communities can take advantage of their climate funds to deal with weather events in a much more effective way,” Haaland said. “We’re not going to sit in DC and say we know exactly what local communities in Island communities should be doing.”

I really liked hearing her speak, and it was a welcome reminder that we have some really awesome people representing us at the highest levels of government. Haaland stressed the importance of procedural justice and inclusive policy making. 

“We are working hard to ensure that tribes and communities have a seat at the table,” Haaland said. “They have the knowledge we need to tap into so that we can make the best decisions possible.”

After that session, I spent some time walking around the country pavilions, tuning into a variety of lectures before grabbing a sandwich for lunch, my first COP sandwich of the conference. It was actually really delicious – a hummus falafel sandwich with beetroot, and I was grateful to find a tasty plant-based option. 

Then, I spent some time at some events in the Action Hub, including an event on ocean acidification and sea level rise, which is something I don’t know a ton about but made a point of being more informed about at COP. I also had the opportunity to meet up with some individuals in my network that I have never met in person before, which was great! 

Today was also youth day, and there were lots of protests around Glasgow as well as in the conference center itself. These protests signify how exclusionary this conference has felt for youth, something that definitely rings true. Most negotiations are completely blocked off from public access. 

Side note: I got to meet my Second Nature colleagues for the first time. Since I started this position remotely, I’d only ever met our President, Tim Carter, in person one time, and I had never actually met Steve beyond Zoom, so it was great to be able to talk off screen for the first time. Tim had arrived at the conference yesterday evening, and since I’ve already been here for four days, I tried to show him around. But, I’ll be honest. In about twenty minutes, I think he had already developed a better sense of where everything was than I have. I’ve been getting so lost walking around the venue, so unfortunately, I don’t think I was the most helpful guide. 

I’m wrapping up this blog post today, marking my first full week at COP26. Lots in store for next week, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.     

Follow Noa throughout COP26 on Twitter (@noadalz).