The European Youth Energy Network goes COP26: youth engagement and aha-moments between urban energy transition, zombie carbon credits & human community

Impressive! Just one year after the construction start of EYEN, we joined the much-awaited UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow and we are here today to tell you a special story. 

(hint: want to find out more about COPs, the official youth constituency & how to get engaged? Then jump to the end of the article!) 

On 13 November, one day later than scheduled, the conference finally ended with a deal, though a very weak one. The conference was a huge failure for keeping the 1.5C temperature limit alive, as the leading Italian news agency reported after an interview with a youth activist. But at the same time, policymakers showed more commitment to include young people in the COP framework: it was announced that the PreCOP26 Youth4Climate event, which brought together 400 young leaders from across the world in Milan, will be replicated next year. But why EYEN x COP? As the European Youth Energy Network (EYEN), we unite energy-focused youth organisations from across Europe and reshape youth engagement towards a just, empowered and collaborative energy transition. Being our first COP conference, our focus was to shape future collaborations: we succeeded in connecting with European institutions, Ministries of Energy and intergovernmental organisations that are playing a fundamental role in the energy transition. We spoke at events and we met changemakers that deeply inspired us. 

“At COP I realized that what is really important is what is happening between the people present. The hands shaken (yes indeed, after COVID testing every day YES), the talks made and the connections created among the attendees are what will build a better world in the days, weeks, months after COP. Politicians are not leading in this, their actions are lagging behind the momentum of the young generations and people that do want to improve this world.” – Carlotta Ferri, Project Manager COP26 

Young protesters during finance day at COP26 request developed countries to respect the 100billion dollars pledge for climate justice

During the conference in Glasgow, EYEN was engaged in events and interviews and we were active in two working groups for renewable energy and market and finance of YOUNGO, the UNFCCC Constituency of Youth. Carlotta Ferri, Federico Barbieri (President of EYEN), Juan Sebastián Álvarez (Treasurer) and Beniamin Strzlecki (SDG7 YC Global Focal Point) were there. Carlotta focused on the topics of energy transition, climate finance/-markets and climate science at COP and traveled to the conference with the “Climate Train” from Amsterdam to Glasgow, which connected and mobilised people on their way to the international conference. It was organised by the Rail to the COP campaign which promotes and facilitates the transition towards a sustainable travel future. Just like Federico, Juan played networker and connected with governments like Norway, Hungary and Sweden to lobby for youth engagement in high level discussions on energy transition topics. 

Juan, Carlotta and Fedrico (EYEN, left to right) at the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

“I left COP26 confident that youth are being embedded even more in policymaking and amazed by the incredible work that is being done by existing youth organisations.” – Federico Barbieri (President of EYEN) 

Powerful. Read on to find out more about our key takeaways from COP,  the tool to advance urban energy transition and much more. 

Get the deal of your life! – Carbon markets and energy at COP 

Did you know that renewable energies & co. are not something you’d directly talk about at COP? And that one of the first conference days was dedicated to “Energy – Accelerating the global transition to clean energy”? The energy transition is not a diplomatic point of negotiation, but a technical solution; a solution said to be able to reduce 60% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Carlotta Ferri has more on necessary solutions, obstacles and justice in the energy job sector in an article on just energy transition as it was discussed. 

“Get the deal of your life! – No emission cuts/transparency/human rights needed” read a flyer of YOUNGO to denounce how COP-things were going on international emissions trading. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement was a walking-on-hot-coals topic this year that was specifically negotiated. It establishes a mechanism for international collaboration through trading credits from emissions reductions generated through specific projects. Tricky! Because this mechanism has to be designed and everyone needs to be kind of happy with it. During the first week the YOUNGO working group on market and finance collected a lot of signals, for example, that the dialogues on Article 6 were making the text less specific and more open to different interpretations. “So during the second week we took to advocacy and my colleagues printed different flyers, calling the negotiators back to their initial aims. The demands of the working group: Overall emission reduction should be the only goal of Article 6. No zombie credits. No false solutions”, recalls Carlotta Ferri. They met with the chairs of the SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) and SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation, both of the UNFCCC) to express their concerns and suggestions on the text and its inclusiveness for less developed countries. And they participated in a press conference, where they once again expressed their points. 

Undeniably, developed countries need to take their responsibility on energy policy very seriously and have realistic expectations towards the energy transition in developing nations. Only days after US-President Biden told world leaders that his administration is committed to slowing climate change with “action, and not words,” his Interior Department oversaw one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history.” And did you see UK-Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressing how civilisation is “one minute to midnight” and the rest of the world must “act now”, while backing fossil fuel projects like the opening of the Cambo oil field off the coast of Scotland? 

Placing youth at the heart of the European energy transition, at COP!

EYEN, the network placing youth at the heart of the European energy transition, wasn’t lonely at COP26. We strengthened our partnership with BRICS YEA (Youth Energy Agency), the international organisation established to secure youth energy cooperation between BRICS countries. Through our involvement in the SDG7 Youth Constituency, we met with Francesco La Camera, the Director-General of IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), exchanging about youth inclusion and more. And there is more! A meeting with Flacso (Latinamerican Faculty of Social sciences) was a first step to expand the work done on citizens’ participation in the urban energy transition. One of the activities of Flacso is to prepare manuals for Latin-American cities that explain step by step how to carry out a climate action plan that contains practical measures for climate mitigation & -adaptation and IEA (International Energy Agency), discussing the progress made  by the global commission on people-centred clean energy transitions.

We were involved in several events and learned a lot about youth advocacy, so come follow us >>>

Hello city, it’s youth calling! What are you doing for the energy transition? We can help.

Do you agree that we need to build on the four pillars of energy transition, which are infrastructure & technology, financial means to realise infrastructure, policy & regulations to guide investments & decision-making and especially participation & the engagement of citizens? We wanted to understand which measures are needed for youth to be engaged in drafting tangible solutions for overcoming energy challenges and boosting cities’ roadmaps towards energy transition in their planning and execution. So we started a project (that has continued growing since) with partners and…presented it at COP26!  

On the 5th of November, EYEN and BRICS YEA (Youth Energy Agency) came together in an interactive session streamed from Glasgow to share the outcomes of “Reshaping the urban energy landscape: citizen’s perspective on the urban energy transition”, the project on young citizens participation in the urban energy transition. Experts from REN21 and the Climate Policy Initiative joined them. The project started out with workshop in partnership with REN21, YES-Europe (Young leaders in Energy and Sustainability), Young Energy Specialists & Development Cooperation (YES-DC), BRICS Youth Energy Agency & Student Energy, and as part of All4Climate/PreCOP in Milan in September. 

For the workshop, the team developed a roadmap analysis tool as an interactive session for participants to analyse the data of the city roadmaps and ask themselves how much they knew about their city’s actions for energy transition, collect the biggest challenges and brainstorm solutions. Any other format “..wasn’t interactive enough. We wanted people to understand what a roadmap looks like, how to build it and how to analyse if it has any loopholes“, Carlotta Ferri explained in Glasgow. From Amsterdam to Milan and São Paulo the challenges ranged from creating natural gas free cities or replacing gas in the buildings sector with renewables to the need for education and awareness about SDGs and the impact of climate change on the city. Let’s not underestimate how, despite having different energy landscapes, some of the challenges faced by cities around the world are the same and how greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution are connected

You can watch the recording of the event and soon get an overview of the project on our website. Cause this is just the start for this tool that will empower many young people and youth organisations to contribute to local policymaking. 

“We are still among the biggest polluters”

On the 11th of November, EYEN presented the outcomes of the urban energy project on the panel “Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water and sustainability in the global economy” that brought together young professionals and policy-makers. Each organisation, representing a different sector, presented its work and engagement and asked decision-makers from the UN Environmental Program and the European Commission about their plans for youth involvement and support in participating in the policy-making process

The discussion had Elina Bardram from the European Commission (DG Clima) talking about how “youth has done a great job in making its voice heard” and how they should get organised in their communities and hold politicians accountable, Peter Schmidt of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) clearly said: “It is not true that the European Union is doing well, stop saying it! We are still among the biggest polluters!” Felix Giroux of Youth4Nature made the point on the barriers to youth participation: “I am here on a voluntary basis on my own finances. Youth needs to be financially supported and you [decision-makers] need to invest in jobs that we want to do! We need finance and stability to keep this energy going.” Rachel Banda (Youth Fair Trade Ambassador), touched upon another topic: “If young people move away from agriculture because farmers do not get a fair price on what they produce, who is going to feed the next generation? You need to make sure that international trade is fair!” You can rewatch the event now. 

In the end, the climate crisis is a problem of inequality and we should be careful to do our fair share and to not replicate systems of oppression/exploitation while we move through the energy transition. 

Also, EYEN was a guest at ClimaTalk in an episode dedicated to the energy transition and carbon markets finance. Rewatch on Youtube now for insights from human rights inclusion to avoiding greenwashing.

The mark that COP26 leaves: From the North Pole to NGOs creating spaces for youth

The COP26 was already the second COP in a row that was held on the European continent, with regulations that barred many activists from the Global South from joining (making it the most exclusive COP ever), ridiculously hypocritical speeches and an outcome that disappointed many fighting for climate justice on the frontlines. Regardless of that, the experience for us as European youth was touching and simply powerful, especially through the climate activists and changemakers we met. 

Alongside energy professionals, there were young people involved in agricultural entrepreneurship in Africa, people doing research on microclima in the North Pole, young professionals involved in municipal policies in South America, researchers and students in finance mechanisms, start-ups involved in sustainable shoe making, young activists protesting for more gender inclusion in the climate discussion and young advocates from Oceania, Pacific Islands and Asia telling the stories of their countries with songs, powerful traditional clothes and strong speeches, and many more. 

“They used different words such as heart, respect, kindness, human community, solidarity and a cultural knowledge rooted in nature and the environment. Words that we rarely hear when talking about matters like climate change: carbon markets, externalities, green credits, mitigating technology, capacity mechanisms, adaptation plan, loss and damage. We sometimes lose sight of the point that what we are doing, we are doing for the wellbeing of humanity”, as Carlotta Ferri puts it. “It made me think about how this topic is bringing so many people together. Maybe COP was not successful in a political way, and only with plenty of naivety one could have expected it to solve the global struggle, but let’s remember the power of these events in bringing people together who would otherwise have never met, allowing them to get  to know each other and create community in working towards the same goal.”

We believe that events such as COP can be successful, when organisations (e.g. YOUNGO, SDG7 YC, EYEN in the future) are strong in representing a specific group, reaching out to stakeholders and creating the space for youth. It also requires governments and further institutions to be open to discussions and an agreement on concrete actions and commitment on both sides to be reached. We need to build our policy advocacy on the existing awareness of the governments that youth do not have clear tools to participate in energy decision making and that having them on board would provide a different, valuable perspective to current energy goals. 

As youth and as EYEN, we remain present in advocating and lobbying for a better outcome at COPs, so stay tuned for COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Till then, we will be taking the lead by coming together for our own projects and solutions. 

The access to COP was granted to EYEN thanks to the valuable membership of YES-DC (Young Energy Specialists and Development Co-operation), registered as an official NGO observer organisation since 1994 and one of EYEN’s founding members, and YOUNGO (Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC). We are also grateful to our partner SDG7 Youth Constituency.

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Thank you for staying with us! Ready for a bit of humour? Welcome to our off-topic COP26 diary: 

If you’re here for the fun facts, then Carlotta Ferri has them for you. You can’t imagine how surprised she was that the menu at the event was not even completely vegetarian. 

“I mean, many of us love meat, but I thought that we could at least pretend to be seriously interested in the environment at COP? But no, not even in appearances. Also, you could talk about the biggest imminent apocalypse and discuss the most hot and worldchanging negotiation topic. But then, as the happy hour started again at 6pm, it suddenly seemed like the climate crisis play was over and all actors could finally enjoy a few glasses of wine and more beers. All for free of course. Because this is the real unspoken race at COP, not the race to 1.5 maximum temperature increase, no, this is for the media. At COP the real race is for free food, free gadgets and free drinks.” 

And that’s when she noticed how countries that normally do not appear very often on the main page of newspapers, suddenly had the attention of the entire world at COP. The Indonesian pavilion is renowned among senior COP attendees as the answer to all one’s primary needs: food and free stuff; while the Thai pavilion served the best instant tea the consumerist world has ever seen (who has time to wait for a tea bag to sit in hot water for a few minutes??? I am here to save the world, no?) and around the whole venue the consumption of coffee was just incredible. 

Federico Barbieri knows some helpful advice on how to survive COP: “The first COP experience is always overwhelming and I realised how unprepared I was. I didn’t expect such a diversity of activities: at any hour you have at least 50 different events to choose from! The key to surviving COP is definitely planning in advance and constant monitoring as the conference evolves and new engagement opportunities appear over the two weeks.”

We will now get a hot tea and leave you to read on if interested in understanding COPs better.

Background info: About COP26 and why you should care


If you are passionate about topics related to mitigation, resilience and adaptation to climate change, then COP is the place to be, to learn, to network and to speak up. 

What is a COP? COP stands for Conference of the Parties and it is the supreme decision-making body of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It includes all the member states of the UN. During COP – which started gathering every year since 1995 – country members meet to discuss and negotiate agreements to respond to climate change on a global level. It is a high-level event, with many parallel meetings where technicalities and details of the agreements are discussed and put in text. It is surely not an inclusive and accessible environment for those who are not specialists in the topics and methodologies of the negotiations. Imagine for students or young professionals that just started their experience! 

So how do I go to COP? The official recognized participation of young NGOs at COP is via the officially UNFCCC Constituency of Youth (YOUNGO), whose objective is to represent youth organisations. More than 200 youth organisations that are active in sectors touched by climate change are granted via the youth constituency a participation in COP every year. In order to participate, affiliation with an organisation that has a granted status of official observer by the UN (via YOUNGO) is necessary. You can find a list in the official website of the UNFCCC: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/parties-non-party-stakeholders/non-party-stakeholders/overview

Ok, but what can I do there? YOUNGO has several working groups that meet every day at COP. Are you interested in health, in gender inclusiveness, you want to follow the development in finance & markets or dive deeper into technologies? You can find a working group that suits you, your interest and knowledge the best. The working groups organise themselves to follow official events, meetings and negotiations. YOUNGO WG members are called to be present at as many events and official meetings/negotiations relevant to the WG as possible and gather all the information available for the rest of the team to a) keep track of what is happening in detail and spread the knowledge and experience to all young people, and b) prepare actions from the youth side, and to develop ideas and suggestions. During official press conferences, informal meetings or documents publishing, YOUNGO delegates can advocate for change and improvements on the work done by the official parties’ delegations.

Carlotta Ferri: “In concrete terms, we were meeting every day as YOUNGO for updates and knowledge sharing, but also as WG to coordinate our presence at all the events. Once there, we were expected to closely follow the negotiations and discussed documents or to listen to the event’s speakers. We organised a system of note taking and spot assignment to cover everything and during our meeting we were pointing out what was relevant for the team to look at.”