PARIS-A youth contingency gave a press conference today to present a policy statement that they expect climate negotiators to follow. Citing concerns that negotiators may limit or remove key areas of focus in reaching a climate agreement, the groups reiterated demands to maintain topics of urgency and why. Adaptation, Education, Gender, Health, Human Rights, Intergenerational Equity, Loss and Damage, Zero Waste, and Long-term Goals were all described as areas that negotiators must adhere to for an agreement to be successful. On the team to address Adaptation expectations was Bambara Donald of Burkina Faso and of the group Greenact who said that all parties need to adapt collectively and mitigate collectively, “Earth is a common ship. We believe each party should act according to its vulnerabilities and urgencies. Special attention must be paid to the adaptation fund. All parties should contribute to this global fund, not only developed parties. However this fund should be urgently and in majority allocated to the most vulnerable parties.”
Negotiating parties have agreed that education is a fundamental element for implementing a successful climate agreement and to the continued success of reaching long-term goals yet Article 8 of the agreement text is at risk of being eliminated. Cecilia Wesslen of Scouterna in Sweden said that, “Education is the most important means towards a society that understands and can respond to our changing climate. Without education, no agreement can be successfully implemented. Education is critical to finding innovative solutions to climate change. The inclusion of Article 8 in the agreement is crucial in opening up new opportunities for Parties and civil society to collaborate on educational initiatives.”
Alejandra Salas of Costa Rica defended women’s and girls’ rights to be represented in the panel’s policy statement. Citing the overwhelming number of females whose lives are lost during climate disasters and the vulnerability of females to suffer violence after a climate catastrophe, Salas asserted, “It must be assured that [action plans] take into account girls’ and women’s specific needs and vulnerabilities. Girls’ and women’s rights organizations must be consulted and allowed to have substantive input into the design, delivery, and implementation of these action plans. Girls and women are experts on their needs and lived experience and can make a genuine contribution to the success of mitigation, adaptation, and resilience programming. The involvement of girls and women is not only a best practice principle, it is also a basic right of girls and women to have their voices heard”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 250,000 lives will be lost between 2030-2050 due to climate change. Food insecurity impacts, the lack of clean water, mass migration, increased disease and conflict all concern the health group of the youth panel. Line Damsgaard of Denmark is studying medicine and is working to eliminate patients with climate change related ailments such as heat stroke, mental health issues inherent after forced migration, and tuberculosis, “I hope in a few years when I become a doctor, I will also see fewer patients with respiratory diseases due to a decrease in the emission of harmful air pollutants, and I hope I will see healthier people as sustainable cities are built. Although the economic costs of acting are high, climate action benefits society not only through improved health but also in net financial savings through health costs.”
The panel is closely watching Article 2 of the core negotiating agreement as described by Jin Young Kim who works with Green Environment Youth Korea. She defended the Human Rights statement of the youth panel that talked about unpredictable weather patterns and more extreme droughts and floods, “We believe all parties in all climate change related actions should respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights for all. We are experiencing unpredictable weather patterns that are impacting basic food security. Many of these impacts are already infringing on the basic rights of food, healthcare, and housing. The most vulnerable and marginalized groups impacted by climate change including youth, women, indigenous populations and impoverished communities live in fragile ecosystems need their human rights to be protected. While leaders are negotiating here in Paris, people are currently being displaced due to the impacts of climate change and the science indicates that the impacts are only going to get worse.”
“Disaster displacement is an issue that is far too serious to ignore,” Erica Bower represented SustainUS and YOUNGO youth groups, “A climate change displacement coordination facility must be integrated into the Loss and Damage mechanism in the Paris agreement. We assert that the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) requires permanent status in UNFCCC process beyond the time bound frame of 2016.” The Loss and Damage Mechanism fulfills the role under the Convention by promoting implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. A hard-fought addition, the Mechanism provides for a better understanding of risk management of adverse effects of climate change, strengthening communication between stakeholders, and would provide technical and financial support.
Océane Dayer stressed the importance of youth involvement under the heading “Intergenerational Equity.” The concept introduced at a previous COP meeting to preserve the necessity to protect current and future generations from climate catastrophe, “We must take strong action now to ensure that today’s youth, the unborn, and all generations of humankind can enjoy a stable climate system.”
The panel stressed the need to avoid human interference in the climate system. Youth advocated for applying operational standards for achieving zero emissions by 2050. Such standards are needed to prevent medium and high risks on people and systems who will least be able to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. “This target is a clear signal of the end of the fossil fuel era.”
Matthew Kennedy spoke about the imperative to move to a zero waste society. He called on government leaders to transition to only sustainable materials as one effort to mitigate emissions, but warned against using a waste-to-energy system that would result in more greenhouse gas emissions than coal burning.
Yugretna Srivastava, from India, is a 3rd semester college student studying engineering. She is in Paris attending the climate talks with the organization Plan for the Planet. Her first time at COP was when she was 15 at COP 15 in Copenhagen, the mirroring numbers responsible for youth here messaging to negotiators, “You have been negotiating my whole life.” She says in the current climate talks that world leaders need to prioritize education, loss and damage, adaptation and energy shift. Srivastava says those items need to be included in the articles of an agreement. “If we could really get energy shift going on we can limit carbon emissions very very quickly.” Here she speaks to KGNU about priorities of the youth groups SustainUS and YOUNGO that coincide with the UNFCC General Secretary Christina Figueres. She begins by talking about the challenges many youth from the global south faced in traveling to the climate talks. Some were denied visas and never made it:
photos: KGNU News