Climate of Co-operation
02 Mar 2010
Despite the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, young people are making progress in protecting their futures.
Attention: This article has been imported from our old websiteWhile we've taken every precaution to ensure that the content of this article remains intact, it may contain errors.
Despite the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December being widely regarded as a political failure, at another venue an alternative conference took place, which had a different outcome. Klimaforum — the People’s Summit — brought together a diverse mix of 50,000 individuals, all sharing concern for the welfare of people and planet, and the intention to actively pursue real solutions to the climate crisis. The event resulted in a declaration that proposes: ‘System Change — Not Climate Change’.
This document marks a rallying call for a ‘movement of movements’, a broad alliance uniting behind a common cause: to make a just and sustainable transition to societies that ensure the rights of life and dignity of all people and future generations on a fertile planet.
This amounts to a transformation of the dominant social and economic system, whilst showing the world that this shift promises a more fulfilling life for all. The declaration supports a grassroots approach, where communities could lead by example, recognising that we all are part of nature. It highlights that alternative ways of life are being increasingly adopted, which reject the boundless accumulation of private wealth and disregard for social and ecological consequences.
Young people are proving to be key in this co-operative effort. Back at the UN conference, they worked tirelessly to safeguard their futures whilst helping voice the needs of under-represented nations and those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Below, two groups of young people reveal their progress. Sean Dagan Wood
How Old Will You Be in 2050?
by Kirsty Schneeberger
Kirsty is a member of UKYCC — the UK Youth Climate Coalition — and was part of the UK’s accredited Youth Delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
After six months of preparation, frequent training weekends, policy analysis and networking sessions, the UKYCC Youth Delegation travelled — by ferry, train and some via bicycle — to the Danish capital for the UN Climate Change Conference.
During the first week, the group participated as planned: met with negotiators, campaigned with other youth stakeholder groups and used online media to inform the public about why the conference was significant for young people and future generations. We built on the message that was given to last year’s delegates: ‘how old will you be in 2050?’ — the year that long-term emission-reduction targets are to be achieved.
As part of the UKYCC commitment to equitable and fair representation at the conference, we partnered with six youth delegates from Kenya. In order for them to attend, we raised funds to cover their travel costs, accommodation and food. The connections and friendships that we made with them and other young people from climate-affected countries around the world, strengthened our resolve to keep working together.
However, on top of the inappropriate use of police force at the peaceful protests outside the venue, access into the conference became restricted during the second and most important week. When we discovered that over half the International Youth stakeholder groups were no longer allowed in, we were concerned it might fracture the youth movement. It could have made us feel irrelevant or caused us to give up and go home.
Instead, we founded the ‘youth space’ outside, where we could all regroup and divert our energies towards more focused campaigns that supported the People’s Summit. We also established a forum to discuss our plans for post-Copenhagen activities and new ways to achieve inter-generational equality and involve young people in decision-making processes.
On the final evening of the conference, well after midnight, the UKYCC joined hundreds of people gathered outside the venue to express their dissatisfaction with the results of the summit.
Towards the end of the demonstration, an ambassador for Bolivia came out to speak to the frustrated gathering. Offering us all his unique perspective, he told us that: “It may not have been a success on the inside” — which did not come as a surprise to anyone — but it had definitely been “a success on the outside.”
This epitomised the experience for the UKYCC in Copenhagen. The ‘outside success’ that the Bolivian ambassador spoke of saw young people’s networks unite and strengthen, giving them a real sense of change; showing them that in 2010, all their campaigns will achieve progress towards safeguarding their fair and just future. The fair and just future that they — and generations to come — all deserve. After all, in 2050 I will still only be 66. How old will you be?
by Tina Bylinski and Charlie Young
Tina and Charlie, part of a student group from Atlantic College in Wales, went to Copenhagen to support under-represented nations
At the heart of the Bella Centre — the venue playing host to the conference — hung a large, white globe, with countries painted on it in black. China, India, the US, even countries as tiny as Britain, were included. The secretariat had not noticed that a myriad of small island nations were missing. A prophecy?
Under the banner of UNfair play, ten of us crossed the sea to support the delegations of under-represented countries. After attending meetings, making notes and digesting documents, we focused on Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, helping them negotiate and spread their message.
Grateful for our support, we were made official delegates and spent the last night having dinner with Kiribati’s President, Anote Tong. His humility was uplifting. He asked why inhabitants of the biggest carbon emitting countries are forcing millions of islanders to alter their lifestyles, when they are finding it so difficult to do themselves. Mr Tong spoke of his love for nature and the human. To know that there is a man in his position, commanding such profound respect, is a message of hope.
Twenty-four nations, mostly Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, had less than eight delegates at the conference, unlike larger nations, who had hundreds supporting them.
The Alliance of Small Island States was one of the most organised coalitions at the conference. Their willingness to speak the truth in the face of countless lies gained them press coverage across the world and the support of millions.
Had they not been crippled by a lack of representation and an under-resourced team, they might have been more effective at getting their voice heard. In regard to this, the energy of the volunteers and young people present was an incredible, if not largely untapped resource, which only needs a spark to light. We, at least, partially levelled out the playing field and realised the powerful impact that a dedicated group can have.
At the next climate change conference in Mexico, a new group of 15 students are planning to sail the Atlantic to fulfil the same goals. We are in contact with the secretariat about endorsement and have had nothing but positive feedback and encouragement. With anticipation, we wait to see what the future brings.
Youth panel. Photo: © David Woollcombe
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation
Donating helps us keep reporting on positive news