CEO Sandy Luk: We are joining young people in calling for action, not words

2 minute read

Marine Conservation Society CEO Sandy Luk looks back at three decades of climate talks and how an impassioned speech from a young conservationist highlights the desperate need for action, not words.

On a day with beautiful clear skies overhead, and a deep blue sea on my left, travelling home on the train from Edinburgh feels very different to my journey up to Glasgow for the first week of COP26 last Sunday.

Then, high winds and fallen trees on the train line caused travel chaos - in my case, 12 hours on many different, cancelled trains. A well-timed message from nature that we really must act now.

The time for action is now

A message echoed powerfully by Dejea Lyons on Saturday during Nature Day at COP26. “The environment is dying, and with it parts of culture, heritage and history,” she said. “There is no more time to plan for the future. The future is now.”

I heard many powerful, urgent statements from countless speakers during the first week of COP26, but this is the one that is on a loop in my head.

Dejea is a youth climate activist and sustainability student from the Cayman Islands. She spoke knowledgably, urgently, passionately and so eloquently.

For her and for so many others from small island (or big ocean) states and coastal communities, the time for action is NOW – not in 2030 or 2050.

We must invest in our ocean, for our future



of UK's offshore seabed MPAs experience fishing activity



of UK’s seabed MPAs legally ban bottom-towed fishing gear



of fishing, including bottom trawling, in Dogger Bank MPA from 2021-22

Three decades of climate change talks

I remember clearly how excited and hopeful I felt for nature and people as a student in 1994. The Earth Summit had just happened in Rio in 1992, the Montreal Protocol was looking as if it might be a success in curbing ozone emissions.

Robust nature legislation became something that could happen, and it seemed that the political will to save the planet was real. It was about environment and development.

As a 25-year old, I was lucky to be able to attend part of the first ever COP in Berlin, a tiny affair compared to the enormous operation that is COP26. Even then, we were driven by the urgency of the action we felt climate change and nature required.

That was more than 25 years ago. The difference was that then there was still time to think and plan.


CEO Sandy Luk with PR Manager Victoria Riglen at COP26

Young people are rightly angered by years of inaction

Dejea, and my own children, do not have that benefit of time, and it is right that young people are angry and that they are demanding action not words, and confronting decision-makers and businesses with the consequences of all those years of stalling and inaction.

I don’t think that we would be where we are now without the last few years of youth marches and action.

While I had the privilege of hearing Dejea speak, some of our team was busy on the Glasgow Climate March. Together with our partners at Whale & Dolphin Conservation, they demanded that governments WAKE UP and #ListenToTheOcean by playing beautiful and haunting whale and dolphin music (loudly!) for all to hear.

Because we desperately need world leaders to recognise the powerful role that the ocean has to play in combatting the climate and nature crises.


Members of our team joined the Glasgow Climate March

We’re committed to fighting for urgent ocean investment

We hope that the COP26 negotiations will finally yield the ambition, commitments and significant investment and support that is required to urgently tackle the climate emergency.

This must include ocean-based and other nature-based solutions. We want world leaders to recognise and invest in the unsung hero in combatting the climate and nature crises – the ocean. We will continue to fight for them to listen, with the help of our supporters.

Find out more about the outcome of COP26 .

Co-funded by the European Union.

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