Thursday, December 1, 2011

Young and Future Generations Day at COP17

Today, December 1, was Young and Future Generations Day (YoFuGe Day) at COP17, which is a day to create awareness for the youth involvement in the fight against climate change. Throughout the day, youth were involved in several side events, high-level briefings, and actions that focused on the importance of youth constituencies at UNFCCC as well as youth participation in climate action around the globe. Below are a few examples of youth activities at the conference today.

As with every day at COP, the Youth Non-Governmental Organizations (YOUNGO) started off with a meeting to discuss the upcoming events, make decisions, and work on other youth-related activities.

Some of the youth at the morning YOUNGO meeting
The meeting consisted of a lot of discussions and decisions including the addition of three new working groups to the constituency: adaptation, biodiversity, and Rio+20. Adaptation refers to changes people will have to make if climate change does occur and causes alterations in the environment. In terms of climate change and related issues, biodiversity refers to how organisms and ecosystems will respond to ecological changes that occur as a result of climate change. Rio+20 is a meeting that will occur in June 2012 to mark the twenty year anniversary of the Earth Summit in Brazil. This summit developed three conventions, one of which is the UNFCCC. As a result of the major climate change aspect, YOUNGO will be working towards attending and becoming involved with the Rio+20 convention.

Biodiversity is important to solving climate change
Soon after the morning meeting, several young people "actions" took place. At a COP meeting, observer organizations can organize actions that often are designed to highlight a specific topic or idea. Often times, if an important decision is being made in the plenary sessions of the COP, concerned organizations will perform actions to show which side they are on and which decision they support. Other times, actions can simply be intended to reinforce an idea that is important for the organization or the conference as a whole. Many youth organizations (and YOUNGO as a whole) had actions today for YoFuGe Day. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts performed the "cha-cha slide" to express support for taking "one step at a time" towards a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. YOUNGO also supported an action involving 1.5 degrees, where youth handed free neck ties to negotiators in an attempt to bring awareness to the 1.5 degree campaign. The ties, which state "I <3 1,5" (for you Americans, the comma is commonly used for the decimal separator in other countries), were a big success. Many negotiators were interested, including the delegates from small-island states that will be the nations most heavily affected by a temperature rise of over 1.5 degrees.

"I <3 1.5" Ties

YOUNGO member with a tie

Later in the day, the chairs of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice held a briefing specifically for youth. Each chair gave an overview of key issues being discussed and then opened the floor to questions about the current negotiations.

Right afterwards, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC held an "Intergenerational Inquiry," where youth and negotiators discussed the role of the youth constituency at the COP. Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, spoke about the importance of youth becoming involved now, so that in the future, when the "hot potato," as she put it, is entirely in the hands of today's youth, it will not come as an unexpected and unfamiliar burden.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCCC

 The next speaker was a teenage girl from South Africa. She shared a story of how she traveled to the city with her father when she was younger, and loved to see the farm animals along the way. It became her dream to one day show her own kids these animals and see the expressions on their faces when the witnessed the beauty of these creatures. Unfortunately, the stream that provided drinking water to these animals dried up as a result of anthropogenic environmental changes. Her dream was destroyed. She then turned to the negotiators and begged that they develop steps forward that do not crush the dreams and hopes of today's younger generation. This inspiring message finished the day of youth celebration with a feeling of hope for the youth, who are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.

Reading a poem to start the Intergenerational Inquiry

The girl on the left gave a tremendous speech that moved everyone in the room

This photo highlights the importance of using social media to spread messages from the youth. Within minutes, the video of the side event was online and shared with the world.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really cool post! Thank you so much. It's really great to see all of the YOUNGOs so involved.