TEENAGER Alicia O’Sullivan from West Cork will join forces with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on September 21 at the first UN Youth Climate Action Summit in New York.
Alicia, 18, who has been campaigning on climate change and environmental issues, was nominated by the Department of Foreign Affairs as the Irish representative to attend the United Nations summit.
The UN Youth Climate Summit is a platform for young leaders who are driving climate action to showcase their solutions and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of our time.
Speaking to The Echo, Alicia described how she learned of her trip to New York.
“I received a phonecall asking me if I accepted the nomination. There was slight concern about school because, of course, I am going into my Leaving Cert year, but the situation we are in right now is far greater than anything and we need everyone to come together. This is what we have been calling for and I am extremely excited that it is finally happening,” she said.
“I am terribly excited and feel extremely honoured and grateful to have been chosen for this position. There are thousands of young people all over Ireland who are just like me, they are fighting and striking for change every day and educating themselves on the climate emergency we’re living in and I will represent the voice of all of us in New York.”
The Leaving Certificate student from Skibbereen said she was most looking forward to meeting all the other youth delegates from around the world, including famed Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who is travelling to New York on a zero-emissions racing yacht.
Thunberg sent messages of support to the Save Our Skibbereen campaign to prevent a plastics factory from being built in Skibbereen and the Protect The Kelp campaign in Bantry, which was fighting against a licence issued to harvest 1860 acres of native kelp forest in Bantry Bay.
Alicia added: “I will get to meet again the youth ambassador from the Marshall Islands whom I met at the Our Ocean Wealth Summit (OOWS) in June, Selina Neirok Leem and I’m very excited to see her! I will be at the Climate Youth Summit held at UN Headquarters on Saturday and Greta will be attending, so I hope I do get to meet her. Greta kindly sent us a video supporting both the Save Our Skibbereen and Protect The Kelp campaign which was an amazing asset to both.”
Discussing Cork’s own efforts to get to grips with climate change, Alicia said there was a lot left to do.
“It’s difficult to focus on a county when it is our country’s system and laws that are letting us down. Although this, Cork County Council are yet to declare a climate emergency and establish any sort of climate committee. In terms of Cork, we need to look at sustainable transport and energy, flood protection and pollution mitigation measures.”
From attending the conference in New York, Alicia said she is hoping to record as much as she can and possibly interview some of the attendees which she can use a resource when she gets back.
“I will continue to spread awareness and use the information I receive to educate others and hopefully get more people onboard and understanding.”