At the end of a pivotal year in the fight against climate change, SSE climate ambassador Victory Luke reflects on her own greener journey and experiences at COP26
As an SSE climate ambassador, I was lucky to attend some key events in Belfast and Glasgow* during the United Nations Climate Change Summit, COP26, in early November. Now as the year ends and I look to the next steps on my own greener journey, I’d like to share my reflections on the climate crisis and the questions I brought to delegates and business leaders at COP26.
As a young woman and a college student, I’m entering into the bigger and wider world. There’s a pressure that comes with that. Young people nowadays have the world’s greatest juggling act to perform, with keeping up with family, friends - our social sphere through social media and the million different faces that come with that: our mental health, and now, the greater good of the world.
The greater good of our world. There’s so much anxiety and fear that comes with this. At times it can feel like we are by ourselves. That companies and businesses aren’t moving fast enough to make the right changes, the world isn’t angry or shouting loud enough, things aren’t being shaken enough.
On the closing weekend of COP26, I spoke at the Let’s Power Change Together event in Glasgow. The last time I had addressed an audience was in 2019, at the IEA Global Conference when it was hosted in Dublin. I’m a novice at best when it comes to making speeches, but nevertheless I believe in speaking up for what is right. Back then I remember saying: “I am not an activist” during my speech, or at least something along those lines. I’m still slightly afraid of what that word means, I think many people are. Especially politicians. Nevertheless, activism takes its shape from the word ‘action’. So, regardless of what we think of the word, by thinking of ways to heal our planet: we are all activists.
That is why I am so thankful to SSE Airtricity for the opportunity to journey with them up to this point. In recent months, I’ve seen history being made when SSE, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Chambers Ireland, brought together the main political leaders on the island of Ireland to discuss an all-island approach to tackling climate change.
I’ve had the opportunity to discuss first-hand with some incredibly influential people, like Nikki Flanders and Martin Pibworth – as well as the leadership in SSE Airtricity – not only SSE’s efforts, but the wider potential of offshore wind and renewable energy generation.
And most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Glasgow, seeing first-hand the passion and commitment of COP26 to power real change. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that things are changing and harder again to believe that these changes are making an impact. But they are and they will. It brings peace of mind to know that this problem really is being dealt with and taken seriously by every single person who was in that room with me at the Let’s Power Change Together event.
Over the last number of months, I’ve met lots of the leaders from SSE. And in those conversations, I’ve been asked the question: ‘What advice would you give us?’ My answer is very simple. First, keep powering through. As I reflect on all I heard at COP26, of all the progress and new projects still to come, I’m over the moon and excited. My second piece of advice would be to share. I would love to see more initiatives across the globe that open the doors to young people, to allow for collaboration between generations. You have the power and we’ve got some ideas. I stood alone on stage in Glasgow, and in front of me were so many strong and influential activists for young people. My ask of them was simply to share more of the space with us. We can’t do it alone; we need continued support to make movement in the right direction.
"My hope is that these events will keep the momentum going and keep alive the thoughts and discussions around small changes making big changes. The actions we take now will cause a domino effect on everything that will be in the future. I hope that COP26 helps us to learn how to power change together again"
Ultimately, I hope that COP26 and events, like the ones in Belfast and Glasgow, highlight and bring the best minds to the forefront of the climate change conversation. My hope is that, as we move into a new year, we carry the momentum from these events and keep alive the thoughts and discussions around small changes making big changes. The actions we take now will cause a domino effect on everything that is now, and everything that will be in the future. We need to work together on this. As I look towards 2022 my hope is that COP26 has helped us on our collective journey, it has helped us learn how to power change together again. It could mean saving the world, and after all, there is no greater version of the human spirit than redemption.
*In an effort to maximise event sustainability, SSE has planted 150 trees in Beechbrae Wood, Scotland and offset 150 tonnes of CO2 on behalf of those who travelled to the ‘Let’s Power Change Together’ event.