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'Let’s get it done': Aspen delegates reflect on the climate crisis and COP26

COP26 UN Climate Change Conference_Rios to Rivers Weston Boyles.jpeg
Weston Boyles
Ríos to Rivers
Climate-justice advocates, including Aspen-based nonprofit Ríos to Rivers, march outside the United Nations COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 5. Ríos to Rivers is working to get the U.N. to recognize the impact of hydropower dams on Indigenous communities, biodiversity and climate change.

As extreme weather events such as drought and rising sea levels continue to take their toll across the globe, this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, wrapped up Friday. Several Aspen residents, including Weston Boyles and Jacquelyn Francis, attended the conference, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, over the past two weeks.

“I am thrilled to actually be working in this space with so many people who really believe that the people of our planet can succeed,” said Francis, co-founder and executive director of the Global Warming Mitigation Project. Francis’ nonprofit organization focuses on finding ways to solve the climate crisis by funding and awarding prizes to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

COP26 Global Warming Mitigation Project_Jacquelyn Francis.jpeg
Courtesy of Global Warming Mitigation Project
Delegates from the Aspen-based Global Warming Mitigation Project gather for a climate-change panel at COP26. The delegation included, from left, GWMP Executive Director Jacquelyn Francis, Ghanaian musician Rocky Dawuni, GWMP Development Director Page Atcheson and Aspen business owner Kris Coulon.

“The problem is so deeply ingrained in capitalism and how we have everything set up,” said Boyles. “It’s going to be a difficult change if we hope to save the world.”

Boyles, who grew up in Aspen, founded Ríos to Rivers, an environmental justice nonprofit that works with Indigenous students to protect endangered river basins around the world. He traveled to COP26 with a group of Indigenous youths from North America and South America to address the impact of hydropower dams on biodiversity, Indigenous communities and climate change.

Aspen Public Radio reporter Eleanor Bennett recently caught up with Boyles and Francis to talk about their experiences at COP26.

Eleanor is an award-winning journalist and Morning Edition anchor. Eleanor has reported on a wide range of topics in her community, including the impacts of federal immigration policies on local DACA recipients, the Valley’s COVID-19 eviction and housing crisis, and hungry goats fighting climate change across the West through targeted grazing. Connecting with people from all walks of life and creating empathic spaces for them to tell their stories fuels her work.