A Journey Thwarted by Climate Change: Personal reflections on the UNFCCC SB60

Posted in: Climate change, Energy and environmental policy, European politics, Evidence and policymaking, Global politics, Science and research policy, Young people

Amy Thompson is the Head of Policy Programmes and Communications at the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR). She attended COP28 as the Head of Delegation for the University of Bath and to present ActNowFilm: youth climate leaders in conversation with climate experts. ActNowFilm is an international youth voices in climate change project, run by the IPR and Cambridge Zero, that calls for the integration of young people into national climate negotiating teams and global climate decision-making processes. Amy also leads the Bath Policy Engagement Academy and University of Bath's policy engagement work.


Yesterday, I was scheduled to embark on a journey by train to the 60th sessions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Subsidiary Bodies (SB 60). This annual international gathering occurs midway between the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) sessions, and it marks the first time colleagues from the University of Bath attend an SB conference.


As the Head of the Bath delegation, I was set to attend alongside Professor Chris Skidmore, who will be participating as an official observer and speaking at the session “Creating the Highway for Private Finance towards COP29,” organized by Marrakech Partnership Finance Focal Point on June 6th.


In addition to this, I was invited by the UNFCCC Youth4Capacity to speak at a workshop alongside colleagues from Cambridge Zero and youth-led organizations ClimaTalk and Climate Words. Together, we were to co-host “Youth4Capacity - Decoding UNFCCC Language,” a workshop aimed at turning language barriers into stepping stones for meaningful youth participation and action on climate change within the UNFCCC processes.


The interactive session was designed to empower participants by 1) decoding commonly used UNFCCC language, and 2) enabling them to acknowledge when they don’t understand certain terms and to ask for clarification.


For the past four years, Cambridge Zero and the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) have been collaborating to empower youth voices in international climate negotiations. Our partnership, which began with the production of ActNowFilm at COP26, has blossomed into initiatives aimed at developing young people’s climate policy skills globally. The most recent iteration of ActNowFilm, featuring conversations between youth climate leaders and international climate experts, was showcased at COP28.


Our youth-oriented capacity-building workshop at Bonn, aimed to decode the complex terminology used within the UNFCCC framework, making it more accessible and understandable. By bridging these language gaps, we aim to transform language barriers into tools for empowerment, enabling young people to drive the urgent climate actions needed for our sustainable future.


However, my travel to the Bonn conference, from where I live in Bavaria, was abruptly halted by the very issue we are fighting against—climate change. Extreme rainfall and unprecedented flooding currently plague Bavaria, with reports indicating that a month’s worth of rain fell in a single day. This deluge has caused groundwater levels to peak, rivers to overflow, and dams to burst across the state. Tragically, four lives have been lost, thousands have been evacuated, and my district has been instructed to refrain from using any wastewater systems to prevent sewage from backing up into homes.


Witnessing such devastation is akin to watching a horrific film play out in real life. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, visited some of the flooded areas, remarking that severe weather serves as a call to action on the climate crisis. He stated, "This is an indication that something is up here. We must not neglect the task of stopping man-made climate change." While it is heartening to see a leader publicly acknowledge the connection between human activity and climate impacts, what we truly need, at a global level, is robust leadership and decisive action to reduce emissions, restore nature, and save lives and livelihoods.


Interestingly, this flooding coincides with a significant political shift. Mexico recently elected a new president who is an IPCC scientist, and Iceland’s new president, a former CEO of The B Teama global non-profit promoting sustainable business practices—has taken office. Are we finally seeing the emergence of the leaders we need to navigate this crisis? As half the world’s population heads to the polls this year, let's hope that more leaders with the necessary skills and experience are elected to navigate us through the future.


Returning to Bonn and the irony of being unable to travel due to climate change, I extend my best wishes to all the speakers and attendees who will be present over the next couple of weeks. Humanity is relying on your leadership and the decisions you make as we prepare for COP29. To all the youth climate leaders, thank you for your tireless work—please reach out to let us know what skills and training would be most helpful to you, so you can be the future leaders our planet needs. Lastly, to all those affected by the severe flooding in Bavaria, I hope for a swift restoration to this calamity.


All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of the IPR, nor of the University of Bath.

Posted in: Climate change, Energy and environmental policy, European politics, Evidence and policymaking, Global politics, Science and research policy, Young people


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