In April 2022, a delegation from the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA) visited the US Embassy in London. YCA member Phyllis Davies gives an honest reflection on her experience.
On 6th April 2022, I got the chance to visit the US Embassy and talk to politicians about the climate crisis as part of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales. It was an incredible experience and I feel extremely privileged and proud to say I have engaged with politicians at an international level, something not nearly enough young people, especially girls, have the opportunity to do.
While I travelled to the Embassy, thoughts filled my head; what should I expect? How can I portray the urgency of the climate crisis and how desperately we, the young people, want action.
Once we had reached the Embassy, we were welcomed by the US Ambassador Philip Reeker who talked briefly about how this was the “decisive decade” to take action, highlighting how the youth movement was important to this. He also mentioned how there was a balance between rising energy costs and climate action. I disagreed with this because, by switching to renewable energy, ending dependency on fossil fuels and insulating houses, you are not only benefiting the planet, but also reducing energy bills.
As the Ambassador was busy, we then had a more in-depth conversation with the Embassy’s Spokesperson, Aaron Snipe. He highlighted how climate change has been politicised, which is concerning as climate action must occur under all governments to keep global warming below 1.5C and secure a liveable future. We also talked about what the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales is, discussed our manifesto and described our three goals for this year. From what I gathered, he was interested in our campaigns and eager to collaborate with us in the near future. This was great news, as building bridges between decision-makers and young people is really important because the decisions politicians make today will affect our lives the most.
After a vegetarian lunch, we met two individuals from the Embassy’s environmental team. We introduced ourselves and they explained their roles during COP26 and how they negotiated climate goals with other countries. They opened the floor to our questions about what measures the US is taking to tackle the climate emergency. We questioned them on climate finance and how the private sector is essential to scaling-up climate solutions and fossil fuel subsidies. They said that they agreed with us, even when they did not fully answer some of the questions asked.
We also spoke with the Embassy’s Green Team, who are interested in implementing sustainable practices at the Embassy. This involves the building itself becoming more environmentally friendly, through thick glass to conserve energy, communal gardens to promote nature and educating Embassy workers on how their behaviour affects the environment. It was interesting to learn how they have created a water system which feeds back into their communal garden and how they organise events about the environment for the workers at the Embassy and their families. Although all this was intriguing, I felt like it was still a work in progress as they had yet to complete their ground source heat pump (this was due to delays) and still get approximately 90-95% of their energy from the national grid (which still uses fossil fuels). The Embassy is not Net Zero, however I hope they progress to be so in the future. I believe it is a good start, to create a sustainable embassy, yet they still need to do a lot more.
Finally, we received a tour of the Embassy, displaying its diverse artworks and impressive architecture. Each floor featured different plants, based on different terrains in America and there was a communal garden outside, which really made nature part of the Embassy. However, nature was absent from the most important room: the conference room, which felt removed from not only the world, but also from nature.
This was concerning, as when politicians make decisions, they must understand that their actions will affect our world and environment. How are they supposed to make climate-conscious decisions in a room so disconnected from nature? Overall, the building was dramatic and very striking.
Throughout my time at the Embassy, I felt respected and my opinions valued. Overall, it was an experience which I will never forget. It built a connection between the youth of Wales and US diplomats and really demonstrated that cooperation to achieve climate justice is possible and attainable.
Phyllis Davies is a 13-year-old climate activist from Pembrokeshire and a member of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales.