Student Reflections on COP26

To mark the historic COP26, three students gave a speech in assembly: Emma Loui (11H), Jesse Brown (10J) and Alex Ho (10W). They spoke passionately to raise awareness about climate change and international cooperation. Their speech was well received by the student body. An edited version of their speech is presented here.

Source: https://www.spc.int/fr/a-l-agenda/un-climate-change-conference-unfccc-cop-26

“Starting on the 9th of November, and set to end on the 19th, the historic 26th COP is taking place. The wisest and the noblest leaders from all over the world are meeting to decide our future. COP stands for Conference of Parties and is organised by the United Nations every year to address climate change. 200 countries have sent 25,000 delegates. It’s the biggest conference the United Kingdom has ever held. They intend to update the Paris agreement, with more countries ratcheting up their commitments to mitigating the effects of global warming.

Unfortunately, we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather is seen, with more violent storms becoming the new norm. Anyone who lives in a coastal city should be worried. Our sea levels are increasing, and our glaciers are melting. Species are going extinct as humans expand into their habitats and cut down their forests. 2015-2019 were the hottest 5 years on record.The earth is now an average of 1.1oC hotter than pre-industrial levels. We must hope that our leaders can find a way to limit it to 1.5oC. We don’t want to experience a 2oC increase.

Image source: http://berkeleyearth.org/2019-temperatures/

To meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, we need to reduce fossil fuel consumption by about 6% per year. But over the last decade or so we’ve been increasing at about 2% per year.

Image source: https://www.quora.com/What-were-CO2-levels-10-000-years-ago

Pre-industrial age there were about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 20 years ago we hoped to keep that under 350. But as humans, we procrastinated and didn’t keep that in check, we then went to 400. We’re now at 411. The highest level in 800,000 years.

In Hong Kong we run our electricity on about 85% coal, 15% nuclear. Every day boatloads of coal are shipped in from Indonesia to keep everything running. That said, we do burn it impressively efficiently and our power companies do have renewable investments overseas.

So, at COP26, we hope that our leaders will pledge to keep our temperature rise under 1.5 degrees. They are hoping to get everyone to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050. But promises mean nothing if countries don’t keep to them. Some countries never committed to the most recent version of the treaty, and some used some ‘creative accounting’ to meet their pledges.

But there is good news. Glasgow is planting 18 millions trees to offset the carbon cost of the conference. There are many great initiatives being started, such as investments in renewables. Germany and Spain have managed to hit 50% renewable electricity, albeit at the height of Summer.

Solar and wind are rising rapidly and the technology is improving. But fossil fuels are still at the top. Here is a graph of energy use, not just electricity. Oil use is high as we use it for transport. COVID’s restriction on flights has bought us some time, but we need to move faster.

So what can we do? There are a number of ways we can help the planet on a personal level. We need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We could all consume less. Less electricity, less everything. For example,

  • Could you buy more locally – buy things that weren’t shipped in from far away?
  • Could you go without wrapping paper this Christmas?
  • Could you use more public transport?

If you do these things already, thank you; you’re helping us all.

The Natureworks team have contracted a company called Newlife Plastics. They will help us recycle any PET and HDPE bottles you guys bring in. So on Friday, there will be a collection tub outside the auditorium. Please bring in any plastic bottles you have- they don’t need to be cleaned but they do need to be empty. This initiative will start this Friday, and will continue every week. This way we as a community can help reduce plastic waste.

Globally, what can we do? We can watch the COP to keep our politicians honest. Find out what commitments your leaders made last time, and check if they kept them. Find out what they agree to this time. One day maybe you can use your vote to help fight climate change. If you are in communication with politicians, you could try suggesting them to increase their support for stopping climate change.

Time really is running out. Let’s be the generation that changes our future and makes future generations proud. Thank you.”