Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Engaging Young People in Climate Change Negotiations

World leaders are gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week to negotiate commitments for tackling the global climate crisis. Many of these leaders have accepted that the impacts of climate change will be felt most by the planet’s growing ranks of young people.

These young people also represent a tremendous opportunity to positively impact climate change and they have come together in various platforms to demand a voice, action and a sustainable future.

Some of these actions kicked off with the Children’s Climate Forum hosted by UNICEF in Denmark. During the week of November 30, about 160 young people from 44 countries hammered out a declaration emphasizing the urgency for fighting climate change and for government action in that fight.

Participants presented the declaration to the President of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), Connie Hedegaard, who is expected to take it to world leaders at COP15. Addressing the young people, Ms. Hedegaard emphasized her support for the need for action:

“You must tell the politicians that they cannot leave Copenhagen empty-handed two weeks from now. Because you, the citizens – the new generation – demand us to take action now.”

For those young people unable to join the Children’s Climate Forum in person, young journalists produced daily reports on its activities. Through social media and online shows, young people expressed their views on climate change and served as the youth-created record of the Children’s Climate Forum.

At COP15 during December 7-18, 2009, approximately 2,000 young people are expected to join negotiators in Copenhagen. There are several events throughout the meetings designed to give young people a voice.

For example, three Youth Briefings will be organized by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat at which invited officials will give short presentations followed by questions from young people. A UN Youth Booth is also hosted by the Secretariat to provide a platform for youth organizations to present their initiatives. To take advantage of these activities and other participation opportunities, many young people have come together under a youth conference, YOUNGO, which the Secretariat recognized as a civil society grouping representing young people at the negotiations.

Many other young people have been engaged as ambassadors for media outlets, organizations and nations to join the negotiations and report on their activities. The Energy Action Coalition and Power Shift built Rapid Response Teams of young people in the US and in Copenhagen to share what the negotiations mean to them and make sure their voices are heard.

Canadian-based civil society organization, 2degreesC, is hosting a web-based global youth outreach initiative, mass dialogues, to connect young people attending the negotiations with others around the world. The mass dialogues include a series of web-based meetings to extend learning and empowerment through participation in the negotiations.

There are many outlets for youth participation in the COP 15 negotiations. It is inspiring to see young people throughout the world stepping up and acting on issues important to them. It is time for the world leaders to listen to them and take immediate action.




Photo courtesy of Oxfam International creative commons flickr photostream.

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