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  • Anika Sikka

The UN Climate Change Conference, A Local's Point Of View

In December of 2018, I had the amazing opportunity of fulfilling every climate activists’ dream by traveling to, and speaking at, the annual United Nations climate change conference — also known as COP24 which was located in Katowice, Poland.

There, I got to work with environmental activists from all over the world in creating a white paper that would be presented to the United Nations.

Our white paper outlined a vision for the world in terms of environmental progress from the perspective of youth. In it, we focused primarily on governmental representation because diverse opinions in the government will lead to more diverse solutions to climate change that will account for every citizen, not just the traditional governmental representatives, typically upper-class white men).

Additionally, we advocated for more education regarding climate issues in schools starting as early as Kindergarten. This will lead to a more educated generation of climate leaders.

It’s been about two years since I participated in writing this white paper, and as I was evaluating our progress in Los Altos in implementing some of the ideas that we outlined, I realized that Los Altos has made a lot of progress in some aspects, but there are still some gaps that are essential to fill in order to progress in terms of the environment.

For starters, Los Altos schools have done a great job in implementing environmental education for students. Whether it’s having Kindergarteners plant potted plants, or teaching fourth and fifth graders about the science behind climate change, we’re building a generation of strong activists with a sense of climate awareness, but we can always do better in educating youth about the pertinence of this issue.

Schools are also providing students the opportunities to further their climate interest through different extracurriculars and clubs which expose them to real-world opportunities in which their activism can make a difference.

Unfortunately, we can’t have fourth and fifth grades govern Los Altos — as fun as it might seem — Los Altos policymakers also have to embrace the need to protect the planet and future generations from climate change. Some progress has been made here. In 2013, the City of Los Altos adopted a Climate Action Plan. Monitoring progress on this plan, however, has been weak.

While Los Altos has elected representatives of diverse backgrounds, not all socioeconomic or racial voices are represented on relevant commissions and the City Council meaning that climate solutions cater to a limited part of Los Altos’ multi-faceted community.

Also, environmental action isn’t as urgent in Los Altos, while there definitely has been some progress, I would like to see more open conversations regarding the environment during City Council meetings, and would like more communication on environmental issues. I would recommend that the Los Altos Youth Commission does some work on climate issues or awareness as they also have a widespread impact on Los Altos youth.

While Los Altos is just a small town, it’s essential that we start to take climate action more seriously because it might set the precedent for other towns/cities in our area. So, wake up Los Altos, the fate of the world — quite literally — is in our hands.

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