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17 year-old Neath student Ellie rubs shoulders with world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow

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Neath College student Ellie Sanders is hoping her voice will be heard as she rubs shoulders with World leaders at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this week.

The 17-year-old A Level student is one of nine members of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales who have been invited to attend.

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The group is facilitated by the organisations, ‘Size of Wales’ and the ‘Welsh Centre for International Affairs’. As part of the group’s work, they organised to attend COP26 to represent the Youth Voice from Wales.

The Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales is a youth-led group with the aim of empowering young people to be heard on climate change. Ellie will also be representing Climate Cymru at the conference.

Ellie who studies German, History and Sociology at A Level, is also a member of the College’s Gifted and Talented Excellence programme (GATE) which offers comprehensive support for students who excel academically.

Kevin Rahman-Daultrey who is the Policy and Education Manager at Size of Wales had this to say about Ellie’s involvement: “It is wonderful to have Ellie, who is one of the group’s founding members, come to COP to represent Wales at this monumental conference.”

Ellie is on a panel that includes other climate ambassadors from Wales and Scotland, as well as the Deputy Climate Change Minister for Wales, Lee Waters and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport.

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She will also be chairing a panel that includes another climate ambassador from Wales, the Deputy Climate Change Minister for Wales Lee Waters, Sophie Howe who is the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and an indigenous leader from Brazil.

This panel will be talking about voices from devolved nations, how they are represented at COP and how they play a role in the approaches to climate change within their countries. Wales isn’t officially represented at COP26 and so doesn’t get a direct delegate as we come under the whole of the UK. Therefore, Ellie’s presence is hugely significant and a move towards Wales having a voice on climate change.

A live stream will be available on the COP26 YouTube channel.

When asked what she hoped to get out of the experience and what she hoped the conference will achieve Ellie said: “I’m hoping to meet new people and to learn and expand my knowledge. As a member of Youth Climate Ambassadors, I would like to see solidarity, I’m fed up with having this blame game between counties, we are all in this mess we’ve all got to work together to get out of it.

“The policies that have emerged from COP26 so far sound okay and I hope that these will be translated into actual action because it’s all well and good people pledging but whether that actually happens, I think is another battle.”

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Ellie got involved in Climate change discussions in secondary school when she was asked to attend a model UN conference. She went as part of her school’s delegation; from this, she got accepted into Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales. She has gone on to join other organisations like Climate Cymru as well as Wellbeing Economy Alliance Cymru Wales Hub.

Ellie thinks young people now have no excuse not to have their voices heard in Wales as the voting age has been lowered to 16 to allow young people to influence democracy and voice their thoughts, and if they want action on climate change, they can vote for a party that pledges to take climate action.

Ellie believes that people are put off from making individual actions to help climate change because they don’t think it’s going to matter because it’s a small, individual act. But anything that you can do to help save the planet like using a reusable water bottle or face covering, really will have an impact. Individual actions do come together to form collective actions and that’s when change happens.

(Lead image: NPTC Group of Colleges)

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