A YOUNG Scottish climate activist is at the heart of advocating for justice on the global stage.

Dylan Hamilton, a 19-year-old activist from Linlithgow, previously demonstrated against the expansion of an open-pit coal mine in the German village of Lützerath, alongside climate activist Greta Thunberg.

More recently, however, Hamilton attended the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, where he spoke to politicians, fellow activists, and those most affected by the climate crisis.

He spoke exclusively to The National about his experience, and what governments need to do going forward to ensure young people still have a planet to live on in years to come.

Politicians have a responsibility to push things through

Hamilton met with UK Climate Minister Graham Stuart whilst attending COP28, who infamously flew from Dubai to London to vote on the Government’s Rwanda Bill, before flying back to Dubai to vote on the climate agreement.

“That was an interesting meeting,” Hamilton told The National.

“The main thing that we brought up was fossil phase out, because that was one of the key discussions with the text. We told him we want a full fossil fuel phase out, and he said that the issue is demand.

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“He said so long as there’s demand, we need to supply it.

“We pointed out that the government isn’t actually doing much to reduce demand, and he didn’t really have anything to say to that.”

Hamilton condemned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s short visit to the conference, which was approximately 8 hours long.

The National: Sunak held a press conference with journalists on the flight to COP28Sunak held a press conference with journalists on the flight to COP28 (Image: PA)

“Rishi should have stayed there a lot longer – Humza Yousaf stayed for like four or five days, as an example.

“It’s like, you get that picture, you reiterate whatever rhetoric you want to say without actually being challenged on following through, and then you leave.

“It just shows where his priorities lie.”

On the other hand, Hamilton said Scotland had “nailed the rhetoric”.

He continued: “Every time I’ve heard a spokesperson from the Scottish Government, they're absolutely nailing that this is an existential crisis, but the translation into action is not where it should be.”

The National: Hamilton met First Minister Humza Yousaf while attending COP28Hamilton met First Minister Humza Yousaf while attending COP28 (Image: Dylan Hamilton)Hamilton acknowledged that the recent Scottish Budget has “more funding than ever for climate change”, and that the Government is somewhat restricted in how it tackles climate change.

“But the big problem is that they’re not understanding that CO2 is a cumulative process,” he told The National.

“If you start with the easy things and slowly reduce your emissions and you leave the big things till later, a lot more is emitted than if you start tackling the big things early.

“Ultimately at this point, we don't have an excuse to not tackle the big things, which is insulation of buildings, heat pumps. Transport emissions are still really high, agriculture emissions are really high. They’re our two highest emitters at the moment.

“We're just not really talking about it, and I think they have a responsibility to push this through.”

COP felt hopeful and hopeless at the same time

At nineteen years old, Hamilton is one of the youngest delegates to attend a COP conference.

He called it “the most hopeful and hopeless situation you could possibly be in”, as the decisions being made will impact his generation the most.

“On the one hand, you can see the rooms where the decisions are being made but you’re not allowed in, and even when you are let in, you’re not allowed to speak, so you have to just watch it take place,” he said.

“And then you’ve got some countries like the Pacific Islands, who are saying this is life or death for us, we’re going to die if this gets passed.

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“And then there’s other countries saying it’s amazing, it’s the most historic deal ever. It’s very strange.”

Hamilton spoke about the connections he had made whilst attending the conference and of his experience of meeting people from indigenous communities.

“Even when you understand a lot of it in theory, it’s not the same as hearing about it from somebody who’s living it,” he said.

“Hearing from them has been amazing, particularly as [the conference] was in an Arab country, there were lots of people from that part of the world I’d never really met before.

“It was really cool meeting all of them and learning about their culture, it’s completely different when you’re over here and yelling about it than when you’re holding hands with the people that are affected.”

The youth stand with Palestine

Whilst at COP28, Hamilton made headlines for a speech he gave during a press conference.

An environmental NGOs (non-governmental organisation) press conference took place daily, and one day decided to focus on the ongoing crisis in Palestine.

Hamilton said he was asked to speak two minutes before the start of the press conference, and didn’t have anything prepared.

“That was a really intense situation,” he told The National, but found it to be a rewarding experience.

The National:

During his speech, which has since been picked up by media outlets such as the Middle East Eye, Hamilton said: “You don’t need a connection to Palestine or the Middle East to know that this is wrong, and that the murder of 20,000 civillians is wrong.

“The youth stand with Palestine. I turned 19 this year, and if you’re 19-years old in Gaza you have already lived through 10 wars.

“That’s an abomination.”

Speaking to The National about his experience, Hamilton said it was “really cool to have the chance to say it on such a great stage.”

He continued: “There were 1000 delegates from Israel there, and the next day the Prime Minister of Israel was at the conference. It’s really brought it to the forefront.

“A lot of people were saying because I’m white and British that I have a lot more safety when I say things like that than other people.

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“If I get kicked out and my visa gets revoked, all I have to do is go to the British Embassy. It’s very different for people living in countries that aren’t so accepting of free speech.

“There were Palestinians who spoke at the press conference as well, I was trying not to tear up while I was speaking because hearing it from them was so emotional. It was really nice to bond with those people.”

The Palestinian people have had their environment weaponised against them

For Hamilton, a world which seeks climate justice must also seek justice for all people, everywhere.

He spoke about the relation between the climate justice movement and the displacement of the Palestinian people, arguing that the two were related.

“We care about climate change because it's going to impact billions of lives and people's right to housing, people's right to water, food safety, all of that,” he said.

“Ultimately, it stems from this kind of western view that we've imposed on the rest of the world where the ground is just a resource to be exploited for our own benefit.

“That's been encompassed by occupation, taking land away from indigenous people and all sorts of things.

“And that is ultimately what's happening in Palestine - indigenous people are having their land taken away from them. Unfortunately, on top of that they're having their environment weaponized against them. Olive trees are being cut down, water is being made undrinkable, that sort of thing.

“So not only is it related to the wider kind of global context, but it's also an example of the environment being weaponised against people.”