Reflections on Political Representation, Climate Change and Youth Participation

photo by Megan Van Buskirk

Climate change does not respect geopolitical boundaries or subdivisions; it affects us all in different ways, and with different intensity. In this sense, forms of political representation based on territoriality are not sufficient to address climate change because of its global nature.  Although affected communities in the global south bear the greatest burden of climate change, they cannot hold the politicians from polluting countries accountable to the impacts of climate change on their communities. Addressing this issue is an imperative and it must also incorporate multiple approaches aimed to impact at the international, national and local levels. This issue must also incorporate an inter-generational approach able to accommodate the ability of current generations to meet their needs, and to live a dignifying life, while accommodating future generations’ ability to access these same rights without exceeding the limits of the earth.  At this year’s UN Climate Negotiations, youth organizations like Youth Arab Climate Coalition, Canadian Youth Delegation, SustainUS, and other organizations from around the world came together to organize the Climate Legacy campaign aimed to pressure world leaders to base their decisions and policies on people instead of corporate profits.

Today the launch of the Climate Legacy campaign took place in the opening of the UN Climate Change Negotiations while negotiators were making their opening statements in the UNFCCC plenary. It was very empowering to be part of this unified movement led by youth organizations from all over the world pressuring world leaders to base their policy decisions on people instead of corporate profits. This campaign has been built with participation of people from all over the globe telling their stories about the climate change impacts suffered in their communities via twitter #Climate Legacy, Facebook book and tumblr.

Today while listening during the press conference to all the stories from youth delegates whose countries have been directly impacted by climate change reminded me about how territorial representation falls short to address global issues, and the importance to incorporate new forms of representation. As an international student from Mexico studying in Canada, climate change impacts me in different ways. The change in weather patterns in Mexico has increased the number of flooding, droughts, and more severe hurricane seasons which have a toll on the most vulnerable people who is the least able to adapt to this conditions and the least responsible for creating it. This in turn affects our economy creating even greater waves of insecurity. Living in Canada has allowed me to realize about the potential that Canada has to lead the way in green energy transition to allow for a more sustainable and equitable world. In this perspective, without international cooperation, territorial representation falls short to address the global climate and social crises. Civil organization and political participation are effective tools to hold politicians accountable to civil society. The Climate Legacy campaign lead by youth organizations at the UN Climate Conference brings a venue built in solidarity to hold climate negotiators and governments accountable to people and future generations around the world.

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