As world leaders gathered in Glasgow to discuss the climate crisis this month, Size of Wales staff and partners headed to COP26 to join the many thousands of activists, Indigenous Peoples and organisations calling for climate justice.
Amplifying Indigenous voices
Indigenous Peoples have been the guardians of tropical forests for millennia. To reach global climate commitments, we need their amazing conservation skills, and traditional knowledge, along with the unique ability of forests to sequester carbon. This can be done through recognising Indigenous Peoples’ land rights, ensuring funding goes directly to them and working in partnership to end deforestation.
Size of Wales staff worked with the Guarani People of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil and the Wampís of the Peruvian Amazon throughout COP26. Together, they engaged with global leaders and youth activists to tell stories of how climate change and deforestation is impacting them and their communities.
Rivelino Verá Popygua, Chief of the Mbya Guarani People, is facing the displacement of his community as a result of soya farming. Verá campaigned tirelessly throughout COP, explaining how products bought in other parts of the world have devastating consequences for his people. Whilst speaking to BBC Wales, he explained how soy grown in the Guarani territories is used to make animal feed for the meat we later consume in Wales:
Representing young Welsh voices
The Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA) were ubiquitous across COP26 and made a powerful case for climate justice, including promoting the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The politicians they met and engaged with included Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh Climate Minister Julie James, Deputy Climate Minister Lee Waters, Ed Miliband MP, Anna McMorrin MP, Heledd Fychan MS, and Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe.
Their energetic and frank approach saw them gain media coverage nearly every single day of the conference. They not only discussed their own priorities but also spoke up about the inequalities of the conference and how oppressed voices weren’t being listened to.
Outside of the conference, the YCA took to the streets, joining tens of thousands of people on a Youth March on 5th November and the 100,000 strong National Day of Action the following day. Both demos showed that young people across the world are united and determined to bring about change.
The YCA formed a strong relationship and understanding with the Indigenous leaders who were part of our COP26 delegation. Speaking to leaders from the Wampís Nation in an interview (video coming soon!), Shenona said:
We have really been changed by speaking to you and hearing your stories… As young people, we’ll be moving forward with the Indigenous Peoples in mind. We’re definitely going to bring back everything you’ve told us to the people of Wales and to young people. And I think we’ve seen that at COP26 how much of an influence young people have, so we’re going to try and use this to push for your autonomy, push for the decisions you want to be made.
Finally, the YCA hosted an event that brought together young people from across the world. It included contributions from the Guarani and others affected by climate change during the Q&A session. You can watch the whole event here.
Making Wales a ‘Deforestation Free Nation’
In the first week of COP26, global leaders from over 100 countries reached an agreement to end global deforestation by 2030. Although we believe action needs to be taken sooner, this was an important deal. Size of Wales has long argued that reaching the 1.5 degrees limit on global temperature rises is impossible without decisive action on preventing tropical deforestation, which is hugely limiting the planet’s ability to sequester carbon.
As part of our ongoing efforts to tackle deforestation, Size of Wales, WWF Cymru, and RSPB Cymru launched a report that outlined how consumption in Wales is contributing to the problem. As a result, along with representation from the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales and the Wampís Nation, Welsh Climate Change Minister Julie James MS announced that she was determined to take action and that the Welsh Government will be changing its procurement policy so it does not contribute to overseas deforestation.
We now look forward to working in partnership with the Welsh Government and the Senedd to implement this policy, so Wales can lead by example for the rest of the world.
Promoting Wales’ contribution
One of the other key elements of our trip was to promote the amazing work already happening in Wales and abroad, specifically the Mbale Trees Programme, which is supported by Size of Wales and the Welsh Government.
We were delighted to welcome Jenipher Sambazi to Glasgow, a coffee farmer who has a Fairtrade brand called Jenipher’s Coffi which is sold across Wales. Jenipher spoke at various events to discuss the importance of Fairtrade both for farmers and for addressing the climate and deforestation crisis. As the first-ever woman to be the chair of her coffee co-operative, she also spoke passionately about promoting women’s actions on climate change. She caught up with Poppy from the YCA to discuss more.
We were also delighted to produce this video with our partners in Mbale of local people sharing their messages with world leaders at COP26.
Moving forward after COP
The final deal made by world leaders at COP26 left much to be desired and the 1.5-degree target on limiting global temperature rises now hangs by a thread. However, outside of the negotiation room, Size of Wales was proud to be part of the sea of voices demanding real justice. These voices no doubt had an impact, particularly on the element mandating countries to return and discuss the targets each year.
Going forward, Size of Wales will continue to promote the voices of young people and those communities disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, including Indigenous Peoples, as part of our ambition to secure the future of our planet.
Together, we can create a force that world leaders simply cannot ignore.
Size of Wales would like to thank all of the individuals and organisations whose hard work made this trip a success, particularly the Indigenous Peoples from partner projects and the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales.