Advocating in Egypt

News | January 18, 2023

St. Paul member Laura Meloy spent a week in Egypt this past November at the annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference. Laura attended as a youth delegate with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

It’s about a twenty-hour plane ride, only 6,483 miles, and an eight-hour time difference from Davenport, Iowa to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Laura Meloy spent nearly an entire day traveling from her home in the Quad Cities to the airport in Chicago, then Jordan, on to Turkey, finally, landing in Egypt. Then it was off to the conference center in Sharm el-Sheikh to begin her days full of advocacy and education.

The UN climate conference ran Nov. 6-18, with Laura attending the second week of the conference events as a youth delegate selected by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). While 50 youth delegates from LWF were selected to attend the conference virtually, only eight were invited to attend in person. As one of those eight youth delegates to attend the conference in person, Laura is the only youth delegate from the United States.

“It feels surreal right now to have been chosen as one of the few delegates attending the conference in person. I’m really excited and I’m starting to get a little nervous,” Laura said, just days before leaving for Egypt. “I never thought I’d get here, attending a global event like this, this fast. It’s funny because I tell people I’m attending the UN Climate Change Conference and lots of them didn’t quite realize what it was or how big of a deal it is. I’m very honored to go as the only American delegate.”

The youth delegates participate in rallies and protests, observe conference negotiations, and attend side events and panels on various topics related to the climate challenge. One of the rallies this year took place on Gender Day. LWF was one of the organizations that shined a light on the ways climate and gender are connected, as part of their global justice mission. The goal of the UN Conference, also known as COP27, is for parties to advocate globally for climate justice, reviewing past successes and discussing ways to further tackle global climate challenges.

Just what are some of the large topics to be addressed at the conference? In the past, substantial change has come from the annual meeting. The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, was adopted at the 21st conference in Paris in 2015. The agreement is one of the more well-known changes to come from the conference.

“I know that all the countries submit their progress reports from the year. The UN is made up of 206 countries, and only about 20-some have submitted their plans. That will be a big obstacle. These countries are committing to action, and the progress report is a way to be held accountable. Other items the conference addresses are loss and damage, how can some countries give support to other countries that need help, and finance is always a large topic.”

Laura has thought about her personal goals at the conference and how she can bring awareness to her community back home.

“I really want to meet the UN delegation while I’m there, but I think using my social media to engage with other youth and people in the QC to motivate them and educate them about what COP27 is and does and how important it is. I want to bring more awareness to what people can do on their own in their own communities. Climate change feels like a big issue and it’s hard to wrap your head around.”

Laura became passionate about climate change during her time in college. She graduated from St. Ambrose University this past spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies. She also double-minored in Environmental Studies and Theology.

During her time at St. Ambrose, Laura was vice president of the Student Government Association, a member and president of the St. Ambrose Model United Nations team, and a member of the St. Ambrose environmental club, Greenlife. She played a major role in creating an environmentally friendly gathering space on campus at St. Ambrose, co-chaired the inaugural Sustainability Fest, started a weekly sustainability podcast, and led the Student Government Association’s first-ever Litterpalooza, a competition-style event where more than 100 people on campus picked up 700 pounds of trash from the campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

Her participation in the youth delegation ties all her passions and experiences together.

St. Paul Pastor Peter Pettit recommended that Laura apply for the LWF youth delegation. Knowing her school background and passion, Peter knew Laura would be a perfect fit for the opportunity. Once the application was complete, Peter assisted Laura in obtaining a letter of recommendation from the office of the Bishop of the ELCA.

“Laura strikes me as bringing a “perfect symphony” for this opportunity – deep interest in religion, passionate concern about climate and ecology, and an adventurous spirit of organizing and doing,” Pastor Pettit said. “After traveling with Laura in Germany this summer, I could see the spirit of adventure and the maturity of purpose that she would bring to the LWF program. The church needs bright, capable people like Laura to take leadership in crucial issues. Starting now as a young adult with this kind of experience and contacts, she will have a wealth of opportunity to develop her leadership in whatever arena and role she chooses.”

What are some easy steps to help with climate change right here at home? Laura’s best advice for those who are looking to step into the climate conversation:

“Be aware of who your government representatives are; where do their priorities lie, where they get their money from. It helps to know where your banks are investing their money as well. At home, you can take shorter showers and educate yourself on proper recycling. Recycling is often not done properly to maximize the impact.”

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