The C40 World Mayors Summit: A Youth-Female Perspective

Emilie Baliozian is a mentee in this year's Paris edition of the Women4Climate mentorship programme and the founder of Climate Communicators, a communications platform that encourages constructive conversations about climate change and specialises in developing effective campaigns. Read more about her work on her W4C profile and Climate Communicators on their website and Twitter

I attended the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen as a Youth Delegate and representative of the Women4Climate mentorship program. From October 9-12th, C40 brought together cities, organizations, businesses and youth to rally around bold climate action toward a just and resilient future for all. As a woman and a young person, this summit marked a turning point in my career, activism and personal life. There was no better place to remind oneself that we are more than capable to meet the climate challenge.

Emilie with Mayor Anne Hildalgo

Summits such as this one are not only to showcase the newest solutions, or to reveal the latest alarming facts: they’re to come together, build ambition, and get emotional. Tears streamed down my face as the iconic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stepped onstage to deliver her closing speech, admitting her “dreams of motherhood” tasted bittersweet knowing what she knows about our future, a reality for most young women in the audience. I felt hope and reassurance every time Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo addressed us youth with understanding and empathy. I felt warmth and fear when Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr stood up during a press conference to hold fellow activist Hilda Flavia Nakabuye as she shared the devastating climate realities of living in Uganda.

As a climate communications specialist, these emotional gestures were a revelation. We keep trying to attack this issue with strategic thinking, yet emotions are crucial to activate and sustain action. Fridays For Future marches are a prime example of emotion-driven action that has galvanized the climate movement into what it is today: diverse, dynamic and ever-growing. Seeing these women in positions of power being pragmatic and taking concrete action while not being afraid to show emotion confirmed what I already knew: women are leading the fight against climate change.

My generation is accustomed to hearing empty promise after empty promise. Since attending an international summit was a novel experience for many of us in the Youth Delegation, we have no point of reference indicating whether this time the page of inaction truly had been turned. At the Summit, we outlined proposals for concrete measures that C40 and its mayors could take to support young people: to integrate climate science and action into school curricula, to create accessible green career opportunities, and for each city to create a Youth Climate Council with a seat at city council meetings.

Leaders were receptive to these ideas, and we will be we looking at the next steps they take to ensure these measures will be included in their agenda once back in their cities. What we know already is that we were listened to and looked out for. This is what we have been asking for for years. We had the opportunity to express our fear, anger and our hope to a room full of world leaders and in the streets of Copenhagen – a historic moment, especially for the youth coming from places governed by administrations who are not only dismissive of climate activists but violent towards them. As a woman and a young person, I came out of this summit thankful, hopeful and certain that we are going to build the future we want.