Ripple Effect film aims to create global wave of climate action from COP26

A climate change film made by a group of over 40 young people from the UK and South Africa during the pandemic is being shown at COP26 today, Monday 8 November.

The Ripple Effect showcases the lived experiences of the young people and how the climate and ecological emergency is impacting them where they are, right now.

They share their individual perspectives about how they have been affected personally by severe drought, wildfires and flooding, as well as their concerns about the biodiversity crisis, the impact on oceans, marine life and inland water, fossil fuel exploitation, and plastic pollution.

The film will be presented at the IMAX cinema in the COP26 Green Zone at 16.00 and will be introduced by a group of the young filmmakers in person, as well as virtually.

The Ripple Effect film brings together young people from a range of youth organisations, including RYCA (Regional Youth Climate Assembly) run by the Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber, Youth@SAIIA, the youth programme of the South African Institute of International Affairs, and the UK Youth Parliament.

The film grew out of a youth summit in April organised by the youth groups with researchers at the University of Leeds, the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN), and youth workers at Leeds City Council and the British Youth Council.

Overcoming challenges

Co-ordination of the film was done entirely virtually, with the young people contributing self-shot mini films and getting together in online workshops. Lockdowns in the UK and the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa made the project particularly challenging.

Desirée Kosciulek, Head of Youth Programmes, SAIIA, said. “Despite the numerous challenges presented by the global health pandemic and the digital divide, it was amazing to be able to see the work that was done by our youth participants in South Africa and in the UK. It has been great to see the exchange of ideas and experiences and to demonstrate how youth are truly leading in climate action around the world. We know that film is just the beginning and hope that the work started here continues beyond COP26,”

Charlee Bewsher, Strategy Manager of the Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber CIO, said: “We are really proud of the work created by the young people, who worked in partnership with peers from South Africa and Northern Ireland.  The film is a snapshot of how all aspects of their lives are directly impacted upon by climate change. They explored how climate change and issues of equality, social justice, education and health are intertwined.  The group really enjoyed learning from each other and hope to develop the friendships they have started.”

"We are dealing with repercussions of your actions"

The film opens with an impassioned poem, ‘Time is Running Out’, about Belfast and the impacts that climate change will have on it, reflecting the frustration shared by the young people. “I feel like my voice is drowned by the noise of those who say they’ll act, but use their words to distract and greenwash”.

Another young interviewee says, “People think, ‘Oh, you know, 2050, it’s so far away’. But we are going to be the new generation. We’ll have to deal with these repercussions of your actions.”

Khahliso Myataza, an 18-year-old climate activist from Johannesburg, South Africa, who took part in the workshops, said: “We're looking at a world that is only concerned about economics and capitalism. We're looking at a world that does not want to introspect and see where it could change before we blow our own lives away with the heightened temperature rises.

“South Africa was affected by one of the worst droughts in the world, by one of our worst droughts. This led to a rise in food prices – many people were left unemployed – and as a third world country, I don't think we can even afford that.

“As an African child who loves her continent, seeing Mount Kilimanjaro on fire because of our capitalist tendencies is not something I want to see ever again.”

Youth-led project

Continuing the catalogue of first-hand experiences, young people from Yorkshire share their experiences of repeated flood events in Mytholmroyd and how it affected their own families and disrupted their schooling.

“When it was the second time [we got flooded] the government didn’t bother to help out. When the first flood happened, they were like, ‘This is the last time, we’re not doing it ever again’, and we had to clean it up ourselves in 2020.”

Harriet Thew of the University of Leeds, a COP26 Research Fellow and a veteran of previous UNFCCC climate conferences, has been involved in the project from the outset and will be taking part in the Green Zone event on Monday. Dr Thew said:  “We are delighted to show this film at COP26 to shed light on young people’s unique experiences of climate change in their own communities. This project has been entirely youth led and I have learned so much from these inspiring young leaders. Their insights, clarity, passion and compassion are a breath of fresh air amidst the vague pledges we are hearing from our politicians in Glasgow.

“Young people around the world have captured world leaders’ attention in the Fridays for Future strikes but this is only the first step. What we need now is for their needs and concerns to be addressed and their rights to be upheld. This includes the right to participate in all decisions affecting their lives which all countries have committed to in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As the Ripple Effect film shows, the decisions taken at COP26 will not only affect young people’s lives tomorrow, they will have significant impacts today.”

The film project was supported by a team from the COP26 Task Force at the University of Leeds, including Kate Lock of the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) and PhD researcher Declan Kenny. It was edited by Professor Paul Cooke, Centenary Chair in World Cinemas at the University of Leeds and original music is by Reece Spanton.

The film will be livestreamed from COP26 and can be viewed at 16.00 Monday 8 November via:

Youth Are Leading: The Ripple Effect:

Further information:

Contact for media: Kate Lock, Policy and Communications Manager, Place-based Climate Action Network