by Laura Rigell
This morning we woke early, to a lit gray sky (it is dark by 3pm here, but light early). After a tasty breakfast in the hotel, Carol, Alex, and I walked to the conference center to start our second day. Alex and I went straight to the 8am YOUNGO daily meeting, the gathering of youth observers. There young people from all over the world planned collective lobbying efforts, arranged meetings of youth working groups, and pitched events for the day. We walked from the YOUNGO meeting to an action that they were planning where for Intergenerational Equity Day. Young people posed silently with tape over their mouths to demonstrate that their voices are being excluded from the process. They held signs with future birthdays (such as “Born on 5 January 2032”) to point out that future lives are being discounted in the agreement. YOUNGO is lobbying to insert a clause about intergenerational equity into the 2015 agreement.
Afterwards, we sat and talked with Marielle Remillard of SustainUS (a US youth delegation). I know Marielle from my time with SustainUS at COP16 in Cancun. She has attended all of the COPs since Copenhagen in 2009, and has a nuanced analysis of the policy developments. Alex and I interviewed Marielle, capturing some of her passion and knowledge. We will post that interview soon.
We then ended up joining a SustainUS meeting that was happening in the hallway nearby. That group continues to inspire us, with their concrete understanding of US domestic policy. They have specific demands for the EPA regarding emissions reduction targets. I am personally excited to leverage the power of the divestment movement to such a concrete policy end.
After meeting Carol for lunch, Alex and I headed to an event on Intergenerational Equity which featured Christiana Figueres. The meeting started with the Brazilian youth delegation demonstrating a flash mob dance. They are coordinating similar acts of protest at gas stations across the world this Saturday. All of the panelists expressed the value of youth involvement in the UN climate negotiations. Christiana emphasized the importance of awareness raising, stating “the fight is not with those who raise their voices, but with those who do not.” She appealed to young people to take local and domestic policy action in order to influence the process. Youth in the audience asked targeted questions about the cutting of NGO delegates and the debadging of three youth delegates at an action on Monday. One youth asked when they will be permitted to re-enter the COP; about 50 youth walked out of the event after Christiana’s noncommittal response.
I then managed to find Camilla Born, director of the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition, who had expressed interest in discussing divestment. She is involved in fossil fuel divestment campaigns affiliated with People and Planet. We were joined by Mathilde Imer of France who had questions about the relevance of divestment to universities in her country. Their energy was contagious- Alex and I were so excited to be connecting with youth leaders from across the ocean. We hope that we can connect with them going forward, as we push our countries to set really ambitious emissions reduction targets for the 2015 agreement.
We all rushed to the briefing by Marcin Korolek (the Polish minister of the environment) which was unsurprisingly vague. He emphasized his commitment to consensus-building and transparency. He spoke highly of the bottom-up process being supposedly pursued in Warsaw and stated that he does not want Paris in 2015 to be another Copenhagen. He blamed the confrontational approach taken by some parties at COP15 for its failure.
Alex, Carol, and I sat writing for a bit, grabbed a quick dinner, and then met up with other college/university delegations. We walked with the group, led by a professor from Washington University, to a nearby apartment to meet them. There were about 30 of us there, all with different backgrounds and focuses. It was great to hear the stories of other faculty and student delegations. We walked away with many ideas about maximizing the effectiveness of future delegations.