More Voices for Greater Equity and Justice at the UNFCCC

Photo by Perla Hernandez

Until there is greater inclusion of different voices to influence political will and commitment of politicians at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there is little hope to keep global temperatures from exceeding the 2°C limit, along with facing the impacts that this will entail.

As a member of a youth NGO at these UN climate negotiations, I have come to realize about the disconnection between the UNFCCC process and the people affected by climate change whose account is not being represented. The people in the global south who did not contribute to this crisis and who are the least able to adapt are being negatively impacted; their houses, their land and their natural resources are already been destroyed for something they did not create.

Empty seats that could accommodate non represented voices

Empty seats at the plenary sessions that could be used by non represented voices

Yet, at these crucial moments when we need everyone’s participation to reduce our global emissions and reinvent the ways we interact with the environment, these voices don’t get to talk at these negotiations, they have the least influence and are the most misrepresented in the process. The important high level decisions taken in this process are not open to press or NGO observers and only official government delegations can intervene and make policies that utterly concern us all.

The greatest toll is going to be on us, the young and future generations who still don’t have a say on these negotiations even though we are the ones who will be inheriting the burden of our governments’ recklessness and climate inaction.

Youth auction calling for more transparency and commitments in the climate negotiations

Youth auction calling for transparency and political will  in the negotiations during the Young and Future Generations Day

I find that among negotiators and UN officials’ narratives there is a widespread use of rhetoric and tokenism with regards to this issue. During the first week at COP18, I attended to the celebrations on Young and Future Generations day and also Gender day. At these events the UNFCCC‘s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and other high level UNFCCC officials talked about the importance of youth and women so we can lead the global effort to address climate change. The speeches were empowering until the participants begun to ask deeper questions regarding to the exclusion of youth under 18 years old in the UNFCCC process, and the lack of financial support for youth participation in these negotiations, which unveiled the rhetoric and tokenisation behind these events. Also, when another CYD delegate and I approached Figueres asking if it was possible to get support regarding Canada’s poor performance on climate change, we were told that, the Canadian youth “have a lot of work to do” and “there is nothing I can do, this has to be dealt at a domestic level through elections”.

 

“Very powerful message” Said UNFCCC‘s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres at youth auction

“Very powerful message” Said UNFCCC‘s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres when stopping by the youth action for a few minutes

I agree that youth has a lot of work to do in order to reconstruct the world that we are inheriting but we cannot do this alone. Politicians need to ensure that youth and other voices get more representation and participation at the negotiations. In eighteen years of climate negotiations, politicians have proven that they can’t solve this problem alone, and there is no time. Youth needs to be empowered to participate in the negotiations and influence the process so that policies formulated represent current and future generations, not private interests. We all share a common responsibility to act and even Christiana Figueres agrees that current generations have greater responsibility because we are aware about the anthropogenic nature of climate change ” this generation knows about climate change, the former generations didn’t” therefore there is no excuse. We live unprecedented times and in order to cope with this reality everyone must be included.

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