'Sitting on the sidelines is not an option'
13 Sep 2010
Kirsty Schneeberger shares her vision for the future and writes about her work integrating the opinions of young people into national and international decision-making on climate change policy.
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I have a vision. In 2050, the world will be a safe and healthy place for people to live in and the Earth’s ecosystems will, once again, be in balance. The animal kingdom will thrive and the biodiversity of the world will continue to support the myriad species that make up the exciting and beautiful planet we know and love.
People and their children will have the opportunity to see and know the different plants and animals that have evolved in such intricate ways as to make each and every one of them breathtakingly exquisite. The year 2010 will not have been the beginning of the sixth mass extinction of the world.
I believe that over the next four decades the world will see co-operation between global leaders on an unprecedented scale. I also believe there will be intergenerational co-operation. Society will understand that those who are tasked with positions of responsibility will endeavour to keep the world safe and healthy, so they might pass on this beautiful jewel to their descendants. In 2050, Generation Y will look back on their lives and be proud.
Generation Y ñ typically today’s 16-26 year olds (the children and grandchildren of Generation X and the Baby Boomers) ñ are in their prime to seize opportunities and weave new ideas into the social fabric. However, they face not only an economic recession that has increased youth unemployment to staggering heights, but an ecological crisis also.
Today’s young people have, until very recently, had to sit on the sidelines and watch those responsible for their livelihoods plunder the Earth into ecological debt; a debt which will have more far-reaching and long-term consequences than the economic downturn. While older generations are forcing the world into its ecological overdraft, it is Generation Y who will have to pay the bill.
Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. This generation of entrepreneurial, determined and dynamic young people are taking matters into their own hands. For some, this means setting up youth-focused charities and empowering young people to become change-makers in their communities. For others, it involves training new leaders to become enlightening figures who other young people can seek
For me, it has been about working with policy and decision-makers, as I have come to understand that the choices they make today have a significant impact on my tomorrow. This is especially true of climate change and energy policy, where many such agreements relate to the years 2020 and 2050. We have legally binding targets that will need to be met, which if missed will not only harm the health of the environment and ecosystems, but also render Generation Y (and many younger) non-compliant with this law. It is my contemporaries who will be
held to account.
And so, for the last year, I have been collaborating with a group of people from different youth organisations to develop ways of integrating a youth voice into decision-making, both at a national level in the UK, and an international level at the UN climate change conferences.
In 2009, I worked with a team to submit an application to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to request that Youth’ be formally recognised as constituency stakeholders in the process. Now, there is an official YOUNGO’ (youth NGO) constituency that works to formally integrate the youth voice in this important level of decision-making.
In the UK, I have been working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to involve various youth groups in the policy-making process. This has involved ad-hoc meetings between youth organisations and UK negotiators ñ the secretary of state and director general of DECC. It also entailed working with the UK Youth Delegation, who travelled to the UN climate conferences in Poznan and Copenhagen ñ and many meetings in between. Finally, it led to the establishment of a Youth Advisory Panel on Climate Change.
Generation Y are no longer sitting on the sidelines as spectators, watching as those in positions of responsibility lock us into ecological debt. We are part of a global movement of young people who will no longer be accused of apathy. The past year in particular has shown, when it comes to climate change, Generation Y is engaged, switched on, and ready to play a role in safeguarding their futures. After all, if we are unable to speak up on behalf of ourselves, then who else will?
Photo: © Mason Photography
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