Thanks, but no thanks.

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Today I witnessed an inspiring action at COP 18.

Youth from YOUNGO, which is the official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change youth constituency, staged an action in the middle of the conference hall at 2:30pm.

They rolled out a banner that read, “thanks.” Each member of the team stood around the banner in rows, holding out signs that read, “for supporting and listening to youth voice, respecting diversity, having a gender balance in the UNFCCC, ending fossil fuel subsidies,” among many other messages that were written. Each of these messages was addressed to the climate change negotiators.

The showcase of the banner followed up with a “thank you,” speech by the MC, who enthusiastically thanked negotiators on behalf of the group by noting down the points written on each paper. “Thank you for acting on behalf of our interests…” he went on. His words were met with smirks and sarcastic cheers. Journalists looked perplexed.

Five minutes later into the speech, a member of the group walked up to the MC and whispered something into his ear. He looked shocked, and exclaimed, “What really?” The banner then rolled out further and suddenly it revealed the message of: “No thanks😦.”

The youth flipped over their pieces of paper. The messages which consisted of the youths’ hopes for the negotiators and negotiations were now replaced with the realities of the situation. The messages across the rows then read: “Blocking progress, more excuses, business as usual, ignoring adaptation, ignoring the science, no legal reinforcement,” along with many other messages of disappointment.

The halls rang silent for a moment. Everyone was just taking it in. It remained silent, people who were walking by stopped to look at the messages that the youth conveyed. I believe that the silence existed because in one way or another, the messages on these pieces of paper rang true and resonated with people.

Dear negotiators, youth today carried out an act of courage by voicing their honesty to you. These messages represent the climate legacy that you’re leaving behind. You have failed to listen to us, consistently ignored us, and have demonstrated no initiative to address the needs that we have identified today. And so for that, we’d really like to tell you thanks, but no thanks.

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