WUR student Pippi van Ommen (23) was involved in Sail to the COP from the start but did not have the time to join the trip by sea to Chile. Now she will be at the climate summit after all. ‘Our campaign will only really have succeeded when it becomes cheaper to take the train to Madrid than fly.’
Pippi van Ommen (left) at the climate summit in Madrid. © Sail to the COP
When the Sail to the COP sailors heard that the climate summit was relocating to Madrid because of the unrest in Chile, they did not have the option of turning back. The wind was unfavourable and they had already made a lot of arrangements in South America. So they switched to Plan B: using the hashtag #railtotheCOP, they called on European attendees to travel by land to Madrid rather than taking the plane. And another 20 or so campaigners were added to the ‘home team’ so that Sail to the COP could be represented in Madrid.
‘I know Moon Weijens, one of the Sail to the COP initiators, through my degree study,’ explains International Land and Water Management Master’s student Pippi van Ommen. I was involved in the project from the start, mainly as a fan offering moral support, but I also helped decide what ship they should use. Only I didn’t have the time to join them on the crossing.’ When the summit was moved to Madrid, Van Ommen got a text message. ‘Could I take a break from my thesis work and go with the new delegation to the climate summit to help spread the Sail to the COP message?’ Van Ommen arrived in Madrid on Sunday 1 December.
With the rest of the new Sail to the COP delegation — young people from all over Europe — she is organizing a debate on slow travel, a panel on climate change and the aviation industry, and an event on how to calculate the CO2 emissions produced by flying. ‘What is more, there are a lot of politicians here who we can approach. Our aim is to get our message about sustainable travel across and to reach as many people as possible. People should realize there is a lot of low-hanging fruit. We have good infrastructure in Europe for travelling by land but it’s still cheaper to fly to Madrid than go by train. That needs to change.’
Every morning and evening, Van Ommen and the rest of the new delegation call the people on the ship. ‘To discuss strategies and figure out how best to tell our story. We are also investigating whether the ship people can call in during our events.’
‘Sail to the COP is a movement that was badly needed. To have it at all is already a success. People from all over Europe are working together to put our message about sustainable travel on the international agenda. The next step is to make sustainable travel actually happen — to make the train to Madrid a cheaper option than flying. Only then will our campaign be truly successful.’