• Kirsten Taylor

Action Not Words — A Message to Leaders at COP26

Students demand “action not words” in a message to world leaders in the run up to COP26. After its successful “Light It Forward” campaign, the organisation Liter of Light has partnered with the University of St Andrews to launch its “Human-Powered Messages of Hope for COP26.” Ahead of the global climate conference in Glasgow, the compelling messages were created using solar powered lanterns, made of recycled materials, and urged lead- ers to take “action not words”. The conference began on Sunday 31 October and was attended by leaders from all over the globe. Other messages of hope included “Save the planet” and “Net zero 2035”. The University of St Andrews pledged in June to be carbon neutral by 2035 as part of its fight against climate change. Liter of Light is a grassroots organisation which previously won the St Andrews Prize for the Environment in 2016. The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an environmental initiative which acknowledges innovative projects making substantial contributions to environmental issues, sustainability, community development, conservation and biodiversity. Liter of Light provides sustainable and affordable solar electricity to people around the world with little or no access to electricity. It has installed over 350,000 bottle lights in over 15 countries, teaching valuable green skills to empower grass-roots businesses along the way. Volunteers from the organisation teach communities how to power their homes and businesses, and light up their streets using recycled plastic bottles and other materials. The lights used in the Message of Hope campaign go to communities in Senegal to replace the current dangerous kerosene lamps used in homes and provide safe, clean, and sustainable solar alternatives. Commenting on the messages, Illac Diaz, the executive director of Liter of Light said, “We are making messages for the planet. COP26 is here in Scotland and what we are trying to do while here is use the solar lights and create and amplify messages collected from students so world leaders know to make the right decisions at COP26.”

Léa Weimann, St Andrews Stu- dents’ Association Environment Officer for 2020 – 21, added, “It’s just about people coming together and saying, ‘Oh, okay this is something that we stand for and we’re watching.’”

She continued, “I’m really excited to see the light bulbs go on because it’s that symbol of both hope but also of a spotlight we’re watching.”

She added, “This message of lights in the quad,‘Action Not Words’ is so much. It is firstly us as students and as young people and as young leaders that will go on to work in this world, and live in it and want to have a habitable planet, to have this portrayal of us together saying ‘Okay we want action, as a university, as an institution, as students [...] just as a generation’.”

Professor Ineke De Moortel, Assistant Vice-Principal (Dean of Science), also said, “We really know that the future is our students and the biggest impact we can have as a university, as an institution is through our students. What we are seeing here is their messages, their hopes, their message to the leaders coming to COP26, and their hopes for their future.”

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