COP25: Youth Climate Activists Take the Lead in Madrid

November 27, 2019

Illustration of the Ben & Jerry's cow holding a sign that says "Climate Justice Now"

Fires across the Arctic, the Amazon, California, and Australia. Record flooding in Venice. Years and years of rising, record-shattering temperatures. And elected officials who haven’t done enough to address any of it.

“It,” of course, is the climate crisis. And it’s what world leaders will be discussing in Madrid, Spain, next week as part of the 25th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or COP25 for short).

Young people are leading the charge to challenge our politicians’ complacency. They’ve taken to the streets across the country and the world and they aren’t backing down. They won’t accept business as usual at COP25. We’re supporting them, and we hope you will too.


Turning Up the Heat on Policymakers

Santiago, Chile, was meant to host COP25, but due to recent unrest there, planners had to find a new location—quickly. Madrid is now readying to welcome politicians, scientists, and activists from all over the globe, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

At the end of last year, the United Nations issued a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts from a rise in global temperatures of 1.5ºC or more. The sobering bottom line? To avoid the worst impacts from the climate crisis, we must reduce global carbon emissions by almost half by 2030. That does not give us much time...

If anyone had any doubts about the IPCC report’s accuracy, well, 2019 should have put them to rest. A severe midsummer heat wave led to the biggest single-day volume loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet on record. Massive fires raged across Alaska driven by unprecedented temperatures 20 to 30 degrees above average, with Anchorage hitting 90ºF for the first time in recorded history. In Europe, a dramatic heat wave resulted in the hottest June ever recorded. Unfortunately, we could go on.... and on....

Young People Lead the Way

Yeah, that’s the very (very) bad news. But, on the other hand, who could have imagined just a year ago that a shy Swedish teenager named Greta Thunberg would inspire a global movement of students and other young leaders who refuse to accept inaction on the climate crisis? Showing their growing influence and impact on the climate movement, young people rallied on September 20 all over the world. With more than 4 million people participating in about 2,500 events in 163 countries across all seven continents, it was the largest single day of climate action in history. 

These young leaders have declared a climate emergency and are calling on leaders to act like our house is on fire. With time running out, all eyes will be on Madrid. World leaders will be taking stock of the progress made in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement (from which the US has formally begun its withdrawal—the only country in the world to pull out of the pact). This meeting is an important milestone on the road to COP26 in Scotland next year, where countries will need to agree to a much more aggressive round of national commitments to reduce emissions.

Greta and other youth leaders have one message for those meeting in Madrid next week and then Scotland in 2020: Listen to the scientists. Unite behind the science and take real action. We stand with Greta and all the youth around the world. Are you ready to do your part? Take action today.