The youth climate movement in Copenhagen
After a week of meetings and actions, the youth attending COP15 are exhausted but inspired. We're here for the long haul.
Monday, December 14, 2009 - 12:48
Virginia correspondent Mary Shindler is reporting from the Copenhagen climate talks in Denmark.
Week one as a youth organizer at COP15 has come to a close. The global youth constituency is comprised of nearly 2,000 people from around the world, and 500 from the United States. The past week has been chaotic and, at times, absolutely exhausting. We are working with other youth delegations, coordinating with larger environmental groups such as Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club. We are writing press releases, talking with media, conducting actions and frantically studying a policy that constantly changes. We haven't had much time for sleep (roughly three hours a night) and hopes that our government will step up have diminished quite a bit. Right now the United States is proposing a weak 3 percent emissions reduction from 1990 levels (compared with the European Union's 20 percent pledge). (Photo: Sierra Student Coalition/Flickr)
Last Saturday in Copenhagen, close to 100,000 people from around the world marched to the Bella Center, in solidarity for climate justice. Despite CNN's overdramatized coverage, the march was incredibly peaceful and inspiring. Strangely, we heard few call-and-response chants, probably due to the multitude of countries represented and languages spoken. (Photo: America.gov/Flickr)
Earlier this week U.S. youth and China youth delegations met for dinner to discuss the future of our countries. About 50 youth from each country met and discussed ideas for collaboration. The youth climate movement in China is amazingly strong and continuing to build strength. They are concerned with many of the same issues that U.S. youth are, such as coal power and industrialization — and they do all their organizing without Facebook. (The popular social organizing tool is banned in China.) It was incredibly powerful to discuss our different tactics for addressing our governments.
In one room were the future leaders of two of the most crucial countries in terms of climate change legislation. One of the biggest, shared ideas that came out of the evening was the need for better communication. If only U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao could sit down and discuss climate change solutions over Chinese food. Our current leaders might be dragging their feet, but the youth have hit the ground running. I left feeling overwhelmed with joy for the future of both our countries.
We met with numerous decision makers, including United States chief negotiators Todd Stern and John Pershing, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and others. Jackson in particular was very encouraging towards the youth movement, telling us to keep up the pressure. (Photo: Sierra Student Coalition/Flickr)
Small country, big voice
Earlier in the week, youth groups organized a powerful action to stand with the tiny country of Tuvalu. The vulnerable Pacific island, along with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and 48 other of the least developed countries, called for a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius to "stay alive." Their small island nation is particularly affected by climate change sea level rise. The United States, China and others objected this proposal of AOSIS. (Photo: SustainUS/Flickr)
Despite limited access to the Bella Center, the youth are organizing from other locations in the city. We are reporting back to states through blogging and other media. We're running a Rapid Response team to mobilize youth back in the States to respond to what's happening here in Copenhagen. We might not have access to the Bella Center after tomorrow due to space capacity. Nevertheless, we are hopeful. As one friend put nicely, "I have faith in people, not politicians."
You might also like: