On the Grounds of COP26: Youth Get Involved with the UN
By: Vinay Karthik
Sophia Mathur, Canada’s first climate striker, Fridays for Future Movement youth activist, and CCL lobbyist from Sudbury, Ontario, attended the 26th UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) last November.
Climate change has always been an important topic in Sophia’s family. Sophia’s mother, Cathy Orlando, is the founder of the first CCL Canada Chapter and now the program director of Citizens’ Climate International. “My mom’s been interested in climate change since she was pregnant with me. So I always grew up knowing about it,” Sophia said.
“When I was seven or eight, I decided I wanted to join my mom and her activism when she was lobbying with Parliament Hill and I got to go lobbying with her. And I got to meet politicians and learn things that inspired me to get started with my own activism.”
Sophia later joined Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future Movement and started striking in November 2018. Monthly strikes with a couple of friends at her city hall turned into larger weekly strikes at the corner of Paris and Brady where people coming home from work could see them. “It got our city to declare a climate emergency.”
Last year, Sophia went to COP26 at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow. Inside the building filled with thousands of people, Sophia attended presentations and got to connect with people from across the globe.
“One of the main takeaways was not just inside the building with all the things going on there but outside the building where I got to meet many other youth from across the world that were doing other very inspiring things. I got to connect to people that cared about the climate crisis like myself. I felt as if I was a part of something, a part of the bigger movement that was going to get climate action globally.”
Sophia spent most of her time during COP26 attending street protests, focused on government inaction, outside of the SEC. “We’re not just educating our politicians, the people making decisions, but also the people of the world who are watching what was going on at COP26 and who want action as well. We got a lot of people empowered around the world to be more involved and put pressure on the government to take action.”
Sophia believes that for governments to combat the climate change crisis, they must start listening to the advice of scientists and climate experts. “There are many different scientists and experts who have been studying climate change and studying the solutions. And many Nobel Prize conferences say that carbon pricing is going to get us to a safer future and will protect us.”
She also believes that cooperation between governments is essential. “Climate change is not a political thing. It’s something that’s going to affect everyone in the world and shouldn’t be made into an argument. It should be managed as governments cooperating with each other so that we can find solutions together and solve this crisis.”
For youth who aspire to make an impact through climate action, Sophia says that you’re never too small to make a difference and there are so many things that you can do, from educating yourself, friends, and family to talking with your politicians. “I only started off just joining my mom’s lobbying and drawing a couple of photos for politicians, telling them that they needed to take action on the climate crisis. The most important thing is that if you care, you should get involved and not hide and keep quiet about what you’re concerned about.”
Vinay Karthik is a freshman from the Wardlaw + Hartridge School in Edison, New Jersey and a member of the Edison chapter of CCL. He is also a FXB Climate Advocate Ambassador and is part of the AI and Climate Committee doing research on optimizing renewable energy.