Interviews - issue #8
Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Zanagee Artis is a US climate activist and co-founder of the youth-led climate activist group Zero Hour. He leads their environmental justice education and legislative work to advance progressive climate policy and a just transition. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.
Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?
Zanagee Artis Continued government support for fossil fuels is one of the most pressing issues that should be addressed at COP26. The G20 nations alone give nearly $600bn in direct fossil fuel subsidies to polluting industry every year. This perpetuates reliance on fossil fuels by skewing the market in favour of fossil fuels as the preferred energy source and by encouraging the construction of new pipelines, fossil fuel export terminals and other fossil fuel infrastructure that is expected to operate for decades. It's time to end fossil fuel subsidies and prioritise people, not polluters.
WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?
Zanagee Genuine commitment to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and transitioning to renewable energy, while protecting consumers and fossil fuel workers, should be a top priority of governments around the world. Countries should also institute lasting frameworks for involvement in the policymaking process for youth, climate justice advocates, and Indigenous peoples who have experienced the impacts of climate change firsthand. Frontline communities and NGOs should not just be brought to the table each time there is another COP. Policy must be actively informed at all times by the frontlines and by the youth who will inherit this crisis.
— Zanagee Artis
WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?
Zanagee After 25 COP conferences, the world is still on track to pass 1.5C in warming. I am not optimistic that, at this 26th COP, world leaders will deliver positive change because they've had the chance to transition off fossil fuels for decades and have continued to allow fossil fuel expansion. I believe in the power of youth mobilisation and the climate justice movement at large to hold elected officials accountable. We will continue to rally, write letters, vote, and demand change because people power is what will drive change in policy.
WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?
Zanagee At this stage in this crisis, I believe that everyone who holds a position of power and has the ability to influence system-level change should do so to achieve climate justice and a just transition. Individual action is not enough to stop climate change while hundreds of billions of dollars are given to industrial agriculture, fossil fuel industry, and plastics production every year. World leaders need to collaborate and use the power that the people of their nations have given them to create policy that transitions the global economy to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
For people who acknowledge the problem that climate change is, it's time to get actively involved. People need to start being active citizens and make calls to their elected officials about the climate policy they want to see. They need to show up at rallies and donate to organisations like Zero Hour and so many others that are actively organising for change every day.
COP26: Youth Mobilisation