It has been five days since I was last at COP 21 in Paris, and honestly, I cannot stop thinking about it. I had such an amazing time that I wish I could go back! One of the things I have been pondering as I finish my last week of classes is what my role as a youth delegate and observer was. What was the purpose of me going to COP 21? If I wanted to learn about climate change and the different impacts and adaptation strategies, I could have looked at the news and searched the internet. So why did I feel so strongly about going to Paris?
The answer I have devised is that it is important for young adults and youths to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change so we can understand how significant the problem is, and how enormous the solutions must be. Climate change is a global problem that every country needs to try to tackle, and not to just leave it for one or two to care about. Because it is a global problem, there need to be global solutions. Nations need to come together and agree to reduce emissions and invest in renewable technologies, while helping their neighbors and allies around the globe. Everyone must work together as one, not as 195 diverse countries.
As an observer at COP 21, I was not allowed to be a part of the negotiation process, and sometimes could not observe the different negotiation sessions. This was a little frustrating because I came to Paris with the intention of watching the negotiations and seeing how the different countries would compromise and work out the problems that would arise. Many young people argue that they do not have a voice. I disagree with them. I think we have a voice; it is just not for COP 21. The role of youth is to take what we learn at the conference and bring it home to share with our families, friends, classmates, professors, employers, neighbors, cities, etc. It is our job to spread the word of climate change and how we can fix it. We cannot participate in the negotiations because of who we are; we are young people who are mostly in college and are still pursuing our education to get a degree. We are young activists and researchers who want to see a change within the world, but we do not have the correct credentials to be a part of the official process. I think the fact that we are not directly involved is very important. This gives us the opportunity to watch the delegations and the individuals in charge of our countries to see what approaches and solutions work and what does not. This gives us the chance to learn from their successes and failures so when it becomes our turn to sit at the table and negotiate, we have an experience to draw upon. We need to be diligent observers so in 30-50 years when we start seeing the effects of climate change and a warmer world, we already have the foundation for solutions and how to interact with each other instead of only thinking of ourselves.
Being a youth at COP 21 is probably the best situation because nothing depends on us. We can soak it all in and gain a lot of knowledge so when the time comes, we are ready when it does depend all on us.