Youth and Climate Change Negotiations

When we talk about who shows up for the United Nations climate change negotiations other than government delegates, we might think about environmental NGOs, or Indigenous peoples’ representatives, or even big companies that have an interest in the agreements reached by decision makers.  But there’s another important group of people who have been involved in the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the very beginning – youth!

Young people have actually been involved in the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties since the very first UNFCCC meeting in Rio, but in 2005, we really got organized.  At the UN Montreal climate change conference, young Canadians participated in their first ever International Youth Delegation.  We built important relationships other projects and campaigns initiated by youth around the world who were concerned about climate change and wanted their governments to take action.  Organizing at the local and international level, we mobilized our communities to stand up and take notice of climate change, and brought their messages directly to decision makers.  This year will be the fifth year that Canadian youth have sent a youth delegation to the UNFCCC.

Meanwhile, on the global scene, youth delegates had been getting together to talk about how our participation at the UNFCCC can become more firmly entrenched in the United Nations process.  After years of collaboration, on September 28, 2009 the international youth climate change movement was successful in securing provisional accredited status.  This means that we have the ability to speak with one voice at the negotiations.  We now have the right and the responsibility to attend workshops taking place between UNFCCC COPs, receive speaking slots during the negotiations, and make interventions.

Why have we worked so hard to secure a place for the youth voice at the UNFCCC?  We believe that youth have a huge power to mobilize their communities to demand achievable, equitable and implementable goals from our leaders.  While we may not hold a high government office or be CEOs of big companies today, one day we will be.  We’re also going to b responsible for implementing the decisions, and living with the consequences, of today’s (in)action.

This November and December in Copenhagen, 29 young Canadians with join thousands of youth from around the world in lobbying decision makers in government, business and media, galvanizing public opinion and mobilizing grassroots movements.  We believe that a better world is possible, and we’re determined to start building it today.

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