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GUEST BLOG: Smartphone Filmmakers Leading the way at COP26


Young filmmaker and Earthbeat co-founder Tarquin Ramsay talks about how our smartphones are powerful tools for bringing about real impact and influencing world leaders on the climate crisis. He also discusses his recent trip to COP26 and Youth Day event.

Young people across the globe already have a campaigning tool in their pockets to place pressure on ineffective climate leaders: their smartphones. With faster internet connections and free editing apps, they now have the agency to turn their stories of lived experience from growing up on the frontline of the climate and ecological crisis into films. These films can become beacons of light for campaigns that put more pressure on the governments and economic structures that run our societies.

Tarquin presents on the topic of "youth, films and visions" on COP26 conference stage

Who am I, what do I do, and why?

My name is Tarquin Ramsay, and I’m a young documentary producer from the UK. My mission is to discover and support the next generation of climate storytellers wherever they are, to ensure their voices have agency and are equally listened to in the film community and the inter-governmental stages. When I was 15, I started asking ‘innocent’ questions about our ability to exercise our fundamental civil liberties. These questions manifested into films, and I began biting off a little more than I could chew by starting work on a feature documentary about free speech.

After six years, amazingly, this was released. It was distributed in 14 countries and was even nominated for ‘Best Positive First Film’ for Cinema Positif Week at Cannes International Film Festival 2019. What a journey! I learned the ins and outs of filmmaking and quickly realised what I wanted to avoid in the industry. I’m now 26 years old and ready to support the younger generation.

In response to a cancelled COP in November 2020, a small group of film producers, comms specialists and I started developing a series of climate storytelling activities for young people in the run-up to COP26. In partnership with a coalition of UN bodies, including UN Climate Change, UNDP, UN Conventions to Combat Desertification, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and youth media education org, Youth4Planet, we all came together to launch Earthbeat. The aim? To engage as many young people across the globe in film, storytelling, and journalism skills to ensure they can better participate in the conversations and actions around the climate and nature emergency.

It’s hard not to fall into the ‘ecological groove’ trap: a state of paralysis induced when you are overwhelmed by negative thoughts and realities that result in you feeling fatalistic about the climate and ecological crisis. We are trying to combat this state of mind by reminding our audiences of the ingenious climate solutions and positive actions taking place across the globe.

Earthbeat & COP26

Earthbeat brings together the ethical practices of 21st-century filmmaking and discussions around environmental justice into one project with the aim of empowering young people worldwide to turn their stories of lived experience into films.

Earthbeat ran a series of hybrid workshops and webinars to support smartphone storytellers who needed more technical skills to make their films in our inaugural year. We facilitated this activity in 11 countries, including four regions across Ghana, working in partnership with Green Africa Youth Org and their network of universities. Once the young participants made these films, Earthbeat launched a global challenge inviting young people aged 14-30 to submit 3-minute films. The challenge was launched under the theme of restoring balance with nature and featured an impact award supported by the Bertha Foundation. After two months of submission, we received 77 submissions from 31 countries!

On a cold Friday evening at COP26 headlining in the IMAX theatre, Earthbeat showcased some of the films, the storytellers, and the innovative local solutions that young people participate in. Earthbeat truly is a global project. We presented a film about a plastic-eating fungi initiative from Lesotho, an island-wide campaign to save the She Cabbage from extinction on the Southern Atlantic Ocean British colony of St Helena, and an inspiring group of local storytellers from the Borneo Rainforest in Indonesia.

Youth4Planet also facilitated the Earthbeat COP26 Tour to platform the films across Northern Europe. The Environmental Ministry of Luxembourg commissioned three interactive e-bikes that started in Luxembourg City and travelled through the Netherlands, Belgium, France zig-zagging their way across the UK to culminate in Glasgow at the beginning of November. The aim was to raise awareness and understanding to allow 21st-century skills like cooperation and co-creation to flourish - e.g. with digital tools such as smartphones. Earthbeat and Youth4Planet participated at events in the Blue Zone on the GEF Stage, The Resilience Lab, and the Benelux Pavillion to further amplify the films and the storytellers.

What's Next?

We want to continue the momentum of the outcomes of COP26 by expanding Earthbeat’s community of digital storytellers through more activities. At the end of the IMAX showcase, we launched another Earthbeat Challenge. This time, in partnership with the UN Office of Disaster and Risk. We invite young filmmakers to submit films exploring initiatives that reduce the risk from disasters, boost resilience, and demonstrate cooperation and coordination across communities, regions, and national boundaries. Submissions are open now until February 18 2022. You can find out more on the Earthbeat Challenge website:

Follow us on Instagram and other social media: @oneearthbeat

We look forward to welcoming you to the Earthbeat community.


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