Approaching the Climate Crisis


Takeaways from a COP26 (a climate change conference) attendee


The Ecology Club hosted Emily Polakowski on Feb. 15 to share a presentation focusing on her experience as an observer at the November United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26). Ms. Polakowski attended COP in Glasgow, Scotland through a League of Women Voters (LWV) scholarship.

“I walked in knowing climate change was real and that’s about it. I walked out with a mission to educate others,” Ms. Polakowski said.

COP is the only global conference entirely dedicated to addressing and lessening the effects of climate change across the world by passing pacts and environmentally conscious policies as well as spreading awareness. Ms. Polakowski described the climate crisis as “intimidating.”

One of her goals in presenting to the Ecology Club was to teach members how to approach climate issues.

“Find what you’re passionate about and get involved in your community. It’s impossible to make global change without local change,” she said.

Starting a green team to educate and integrate more sustainable practices at her church in Waterford was one of the first steps Ms. Polakowski took after returning from COP to approach the climate crisis from within her community.

While she talked about the highlights of her trip, Ms. Polakowski also shared some disappointing moments at the conference.

“Ms. Polakowski said that many of the delegates attending COP were there on behalf of fossil fuel companies, which goes to show how much progress needs to be made phasing out fossil fuels, since that is not happening globally,” vice president of the Ecology Club junior Sophie Lambert said.

The attendance of such representatives limited the success of COP26’s goal of shifting reliance on environmentally harmful fossil fuels, like coal, to more sustainable forms of energy like wind and solar through the Global Coal to Clean Energy Transition Statement.

AP Environmental Science teacher and Ecology Club advisor Laura Ashburn said the recurrence of “keeping certain groups from the discussion table,” is one of the main roadblocks in effectively mitigating climate change, specifically for the women who feel its effects most directly as the sole caretakers and providers in developing nations.

“COP talked up its inclusivity and record number of attendees, but many negotiations and events were severely restricted,” Ms. Polakowski said in The Day newspaper where she submitted an opinion article titled, “What I Learned at COP26, and What to Do About it.”

Ms. Polakowski ended her presentation to the Ecology Club saying, “My main piece of advice is to get involved where you care and do what makes sense to you.”