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News & Blog > Blogs: "Perspectives, Provocations & Initiatives" > Experiencing COP27 as a Young Climate Activist

Experiencing COP27 as a Young Climate Activist

María Alejandra Téllez Correa (MSCCCDP13) speaks about her journey of being a climate activist and her experience at COP27 and shares simple ways you can have a significant impact on the world.
Image by María Alejandra Téllez Correa. Protestants at COP27.
Image by María Alejandra Téllez Correa. Protestants at COP27.

Leadership is not an inherited skill; it is a treasure that if found and properly cultivated, can serve to positively transform the world. I demonstrate leadership through being a climate activist and a social entrepreneur, which itself has been challenging. It demands high responsibility to add value to the constant struggle of tackling climate change in this crisis era. 

Climate change is changing us.

Climate change has become a trending topic due to its negative consequences on the planet, such as droughts and floods, which have exacerbated existing inequities and poverty gaps around the world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that humans are responsible for the escalation of global warming to the point that there is a high confidence scenario that  the planet could reach a 1.5°C increase between 2030 and 2052, causing irreversible losses and damages to our ecosystems and human life. 

There is no doubt that humankind has been influencing the Earth's climate system by emitting thousands of tons of greenhouse gases for years, significantly changing the patterns of weather and causing extreme climate events worldwide. This serious change in weather patterns has increased the vulnerability of more than 3.3 - 3.6 billion people to the effects of climate change, mostly in low- and middle- income countries. This is making the most vulnerable experience even higher levels of inequality and destruction to their livelihoods.

Image by María Alejandra Téllez Correa. Poster in one of the COP27 Pavilions. 

My history as a climate and social activist and entrepreneur

Being a lawyer, social entrepreneur, and a current master´s student of climate change, development, and policy at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), has given me the chance to set a critical point of view on what development should look like, and how it is related to climate change issues.

6 years ago, I have decided to change my life and put myself at the service of climate action by co-founding a transformative initiative: Climalab. Climalab is a Colombian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and a laboratory of ideas and solutions to the current climate crisis.

Climalab Institutional Video (Subtitled)

Climalab aims to promote projects with education, ancestry, youth, and gender approaches that promote resilience and climate justice by developing adaptation and social projects for the beneficiary of (mainly) girls, children, youth, and women. Climalab have impacted more than 5,000 people to date (see Climalab annual reports here). 

Images by Climalab. Designing adaptation plans to climate change with rural communities.    

These experiences with Climalab have been impactful and rewarding and have given me the chance to participate in different national and international scenarios including attending and participating in COP27, which was a significant personal highlight.

Image by Zovu. Social Media Invitation to the event.    

For the first time, Climalab acquired sponsorship to attend COP. This year the Conference took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  My mission as a delegate was to present our project´s outcomes related to the high vulnerability to climate change in our rural communities in Colombia and show how resilience and the gender approach are important elements to be considered if we want to build climate and social justice in our territories.

I participated in person for the Connecting climate & Social Justice to leave no one behind panel, promoted by Zovu at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Pavilion on November 16th.  

It was a lively panel formed by five different climate activists all from different countries. The panel consisted of:

  • Laiane Santos, part of the Chico Mendes Committee, Brazil.
  • Siouar Douss (MAGEN35), part of the Nala Feminist Collective, Tunisia.
  • Disha Ravi, part of the team of the movement Fridays for Future, India.
  • Hallima Nyota, leader of the Social Justice Movement, Kenya
  • María Alejandra Téllez Correa (myself), Climalab Director,Colombia.

Image by María Alejandra Téllez Correa. Panel Connecting Climate & Social Justice to leave no one behind.

All of us had the opportunity to share our experiences implementing programs and projects tackling climate change from a wide range of frontiers, perspectives, and mindsets. Two great conclusions came out of this panel:

  1. Despite climate financing challenges, climate crises demand our commitment to being at the frontline of the crisis promoting and implementing innovative projects with and for the most vulnerable that will make possible a pathway towards social justice.
  2. Histories about our territories are essential to disseminate the main climate change issues that a specific community is living in, so filming or documenting those will be very useful to take action. (Watch the documentary Afro-peasant resistance in La Guajira, Colombia filmed by Climalab below).

Documentary: Afro-peasant Resistance in La Guajira (subtitled) 

Image by María Alejandra Téllez Correa. Panel Connecting Climate & Social Justice to leave no one behind

Interview with María Alejandra Téllez about the outcomes related to the gender approach in the COP27 negotiations by British Glamour Magazine.

Call to action

The future needs a network of servers whose combined efforts can produce a greater and much more significant impact on the world. The future I have envisioned includes broadening the network of collaborators I have built to achieve greater results with Climalab NGO projects and become a better leader. I encourage everyone to work toward fighting climate change, no matter who you are, what your occupation is, where you come from, or what you want to be in the future. Climate change is a social concern that must be tackled now.

If you don't know how to start impacting positively, you can just start doing the following actions:

  1.  Reduce energy consumption, ride a bike more often, use public transport, and/or do carpooling! Among other sustainable actions that are easy to do – start with these 10 actions suggested by the UN!
  2. Reduce your meat consumption and buy food products from locals.
  3. Volunteer in climate change and social organizations, and/or create your own sustainable company or organization.

Follow María Alejandra Téllez Correa on LinkedIn

This is one of a series of blogs supported by the IDS alumni office and written by current IDS students and PhD Researchers from academic year 2022-2023 Spring Term. 

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