By ship to the climate conference: like greta, only bigger

36 activists want to sail from the Netherlands to the UN Climate Change Conference in South America in October. They will spend seven weeks making plans for green mobility.

Setting sail for America: the "Regina Maris" Photo: afp

What Greta can do, they also want to try – only longer, further, as a group and with even fewer greenhouse gas emissions. After Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed to New York on the sailing yacht "Malizia II," a group of young people in Europe is getting ready to set off by sailing ship for the UN Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile.

The project "Sail to the COP" (COP stands for Conference of the Parties) wants to set sail on 2. October on the Dutch coast and promote a "fair and sustainable transport system" that makes it "easy, affordable and attractive to travel without damaging the planet," as the project proclaims.

Thirty-six adventure-seekers plan to embark in Scheveningen, near The Hague, in early October under the guidance of an experienced crew. On the three-mast sailing schooner "Regina Maris," the seven-week voyage will include stops in Casablanca, Tenerife and the Cape Verde Islands before reaching Recife in Brazil. From there, the crew will sail to Rio, where they will travel by bus across South America to Santiago de Chile. There, in the first two weeks of December, the 25th UN Climate Change Conference will take place, where the course is to be set for the decisive climate year 2020.

"Of course, this is not a path for everyone," Frederike Freitag, who is preparing for her seven-week voyage on the "Regina Maris," tells the taz. The 21-year-old from Allgau is studying "Global Projects and Change Managment" in the Netherlands and is taking at least four months off. "We want to set an example that we also have to rethink travel and tourism."

Daily think tank

Every day, the "change makers" on board plan to sit down for a few hours as a think tank to come up with concepts for better mobility. One such vision will then be presented at the COP. Finally, on its homepage, the project emphasizes the extent to which flying threatens the climate: air travel will probably double worldwide in the next 20 years, but will only benefit a small part of the world’s population in the process: Only 18 percent of the world’s population has ever flown.

The project is financed by the participants and sponsors. Freitag had to raise 2,500 euros, and the overall project has so far collected about half of the planned 25,000 euros via crowdfunding. The campaign is supported by the Dutch railroad company ProRail, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure, the environmental organization urgenda, companies and universities. There are 10 seats available on board for donors and paying media.

Conference of the Parties

"Traveling easily, affordably and attractively without damaging the planet"

Frederike Freitag is aware of how important travel is to her generation. She has worked in tourism herself, sailing in Australia and the Caribbean, she says. "But the more I looked into it, the clearer it became how unsustainable it is." With a shared "vision" and a roadmap with specific points, the travelers plan to push for solutions at the climate conference.

But when the COP is over, no one from the "Regina Maris" team will get on a plane to go home, says Frederike Freitag. On the contrary – the activists want to get across the Atlantic by hiring on sailing ships or looking for passage on container ships. Maybe someone will take Greta Thunberg with them: The icon of the "Fridays for Future" movement has indeed announced that she will appear at the COP in Santiago. So far, however, it is not known how she will get back to Europe.

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