The Current

A glimmer of hope for youth climate activists as UN summit begins

The Current's youth climate panel returned on Monday to discuss this week's United Nations Climate Action Summit and the momentum behind the climate strike movement.

Three young people share their hopes and fears as world leaders gather in New York

Sophia Mathur, a 12-year-old activist from Sudbury, Ont., spoke to The Current about what she wants to see happen this week at the UN climate summit. (@sophia.mathur/Instagram)

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With the United Nations Climate Action Summit kicking off this week in New York City, youth activist Joe Crabtree says he's feeling both optimistic and anxious. 

"There has been a shift in opinion towards pro-climate action. I'm hoping the UN climate summit will come up with something solid," the British teenager told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch.

"But I am worried, because I think the point of no return is getting closer each month, each day, each minute," he said.

Crabtree's mixed feelings were echoed by the other members of The Current's youth climate panel ahead of the world leader's meeting, which is prompting global protests calling for a swifter response to the crisis.   

"We need action, and not words," said 12-year-old Sophia Mathur, who comes from Sudbury, Ont. and who recently travelled to the Washington D.C. to meet Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. 

Thunberg opened the summit on Monday with an angry condemnation of world leaders for failing to take strong measures to combat climate change. "How dare you," she said.

Greta Thunberg, centre, takes part in a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike in lower Manhattan on Friday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Mathur, along with 17-year-old Aditi Narayanan, of Pheonix, Ariz., has seen growing momentum around climate issues in their hometowns.

Narayanan says it's been "amazing" to see the weekly climate strikes she helps organize — part of a movement of school walk-outs that was inspired by Thunberg — grow larger and larger. 

But both teenagers say that political action is the only way forward. 

"Politicians need to start doing what the experts are saying, and they need to do it right now," said Mathur. 

To discuss the UN Climate Action Summit, Lynch spoke to:

  • Joe Crabtree, a youth activist from London, United Kingdom. 
  • Sophia Mathur, a youth activist from Sudbury, Ont.
  • Aditi Narayanan, a youth activist from Pheonix, Ariz.

Written by Kate McGillivray. Produced by Julie Crysler, Cameron Perrier, and Ines Colabrese.