Anfeng “Wilson” Xie ’26 reflects on the experience of speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
BY JACQUELINE PRIMO LEMMON
In early December, Anfeng “Wilson” Xie ’26 traveled to Dubai to speak onstage at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP28. There, the Fourth Former and Shanghai native shared his personal experience witnessing the impacts of climate change in China and emphasized the importance of individual action on the environment. Returning to SPS after his trip, Xie was excited about what he had seen and heard at the conference and how he had contributed to the dialogue around climate change.
How did the opportunity to speak at COP28 present itself?
Some of my favorite times in elementary school were fishing with my grandpa, but many of the ponds [around us] started closing because of water pollution from industrial sewage, ship waste and agricultural waste. Since then I have strived to drive environmental awareness in my communities through creating artwork and publishing essays. This past summer I decided to organize a weeklong project to clean up the Yangtze riverbanks with area middle school students and to educate them about environmentalism; we collected 21 full bags of trash and recycling. The organization Global Youth Philanthropy in Boston picked up what I did in China and believed I would be a good representative for youths around the world, so they invited me to speak at COP28.
What was your speech about?
I had five to six minutes to speak, so I shared the story of fishing with my grandpa, the summer cleanup project and the influence my small action had made on others — many of the middle schoolers I worked with were inspired and planned to do similar cleanups monthly. I spoke about how governments and countries are made up of individuals, and when many individuals start to take action, that can influence others. It spreads like a ripple. Climate change is a global issue, so it requires global collaboration.
Climate change is in the air we breathe growing warmer each year, in the rising sea levels wounding our coastal cities and in the changing weather patterns that bring drought in some areas and floods in others. Hurricanes, sandstorms in Beijing, glaciers melting — people, including youths, should start taking action, no matter how big or small, because it is our planet and thus our responsibility to protect it.
Did your grandfather get to see your speech?
Everyone in my family was sitting around the table watching the livestream at home in China. Because I spoke in English, my grandma and grandpa couldn’t really understand, but they could sense my confidence. They were really happy.
Are you involved with environmental efforts at SPS?
I’m in Eco-Action this year and last, as well as Climate Lab, where students come up with their own projects and work together on them. I proposed, with a few of my classmates, creating an online trading platform where students can post what objects they do not need and anyone who wants them can have them for free. In my case, I have a lot of spare items, like outgrown clothes, used books, dorm decorations … .
What was your biggest takeaway from the conference?
Attending the conference strengthened my passion for the environment even more, seeing how every country needs to come to an agreement even though every country has their own political agendas, economic goals, etc. When I talk to some of my classmates and friends, they think the environment is something we cannot really change because it’s so big. But every action counts, and I’m trying to do the most that I as a high school student can do.