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Film aims to create global wave of climate action from COP26

Press release

A climate change film made by a group of over 40 young people from the UK and South Africa during the pandemic is being shown at COP26 today, Monday 8 November.

The Ripple Effect, which was supported by a team from the University of Leeds, showcases the lived experiences of the young people and how the climate and ecological emergency is impacting them where they are, right now.

They share their individual perspectives about how they have been affected personally by severe drought, wildfires and flooding, as well as their concerns about the biodiversity crisis, the impact on oceans, marine life and inland water, fossil fuel exploitation, and plastic pollution.

The film will be presented at the IMAX cinema in the COP26 Green Zone and will be introduced by a group of the young filmmakers in person, as well as virtually.

The Ripple Effect film brings together young people from a range of youth organisations, including RYCA (Regional Youth Climate Assembly) run by the Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber, Youth@SAIIA, the youth programme of the South African Institute of International Affairs, and the UK Youth Parliament.

The film grew out of a youth summit in April organised by the youth groups with researchers at the University of Leeds and youth workers at Leeds City Council and the British Youth Council.

Stories of climate impact

Co-ordination of the film was done entirely virtually, with the young people contributing self-shot mini films and getting together in online workshops. Lockdowns in the UK and the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa made the project particularly challenging.

Khahliso Myataza, an 18-year-old climate activist from Johannesburg, South Africa, who took part in the workshops, said: “We’re looking at a world that is only concerned about economics and capitalism. We’re looking at a world that does not want to introspect and see where it could change before we blow our own lives away with the heightened temperature rises.

“As an African child who loves her continent, seeing Mount Kilimanjaro on fire because of our capitalist tendencies is not something I want to see ever again.”

Continuing the catalogue of first-hand experiences, young people from Yorkshire share their experiences of repeated flood events in Mytholmroyd and how it affected their own families and disrupted their schooling.

“When it was the second time [we got flooded] the government didn’t bother to help out. When the first flood happened, they were like, ‘This is the last time, we’re not doing it ever again’, and we had to clean it up ourselves in 2020.”

Inspirational young people

Dr Harriet Thew of the University of Leeds, a COP26 Research Fellow and a veteran of previous UNFCCC climate conferences, has been involved in the project from the outset and will be taking part in the Green Zone event on Monday.

Dr Thew said:  “This project has been entirely youth led and I have learned so much from these inspiring young leaders. Their insights, clarity, passion and compassion are a breath of fresh air amidst the vague pledges we are hearing from our politicians in Glasgow.

“Young people around the world have captured world leaders’ attention in the Fridays for Future strikes but this is only the first step. What we need now is for their needs and concerns to be addressed and their rights to be upheld. This includes the right to participate in all decisions affecting their lives which all countries have committed to in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As the Ripple Effect film shows, the decisions taken at COP26 will not only affect young people’s lives tomorrow, they will have significant impacts today.”

Desirée Kosciulek, Head of Youth Programmes, SAIIA, said: “It has been great to see the exchange of ideas and experiences and to demonstrate how youth are truly leading in climate action around the world. We know that film is just the beginning and hope that the work started here continues beyond COP26.”

Charlee Bewsher, Strategy Manager of the Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber CIO, said: “We are really proud of the work created by the young people, who worked in partnership with peers from South Africa and Northern Ireland.  The film is a snapshot of how all aspects of their lives are directly impacted upon by climate change. They explored how climate change and issues of equality, social justice, education and health are intertwined.”

The film project was supported by a team from the COP26 Task Force at the University of Leeds, including Kate Lock of the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) and PhD researcher Declan Kenny. It was edited by Professor Paul Cooke, Centenary Chair in World Cinemas at the University of Leeds and original music is by Reece Spanton.

Further information

The film will be livestreamed from COP26 at 16.00 Monday 8 November.

For media enquiries, contact Kate Lock, Policy and Communications Manager at the Place-based Climate Action Network.