There’s a source of ever-renewable energy in Poland’s National Stadium these days – and it’s to be found in the conference’s young delegates. Young and Future Generations Day has been held at the Conference of the Parties annually since COP 14 (Poznan, 2008). Back in Poland once again, to say that yesterday’s instalment was action-packed would be an understatement. Here are six short snapshots.
Think back to Tuesday: YOUNGO’s address to the ADP plenary ended in a silent dedication to future generations. The powerful image of the speaker’s taped mouth reappeared yesterday morning, multiplied across forty mouths as today’s youth silently articulated their concern for tomorrow’s children. Wearing signs announcing faraway birthdays (‘Born on June 12 2023’; ‘Born in May 15 2050’…) and holding others reading ‘Intergenerational Equity’ in a Babel of languages, they held their peace in plea for a sustainable climate legacy.
UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, was here, there and everywhere: launching the Chinese language version of Youth in Action on Climate Change: Inspirations from Around the World with a Chinese delegation of school students one minute; consulting with Australian university students about the role of their future careers in a low-carbon economy the next and, of course, interacting with passion and enthusiasm as youth delegates piled on the questions during the Intergenerational Inquiry.
Two youth-dedicated side events were held. The Intergenerational Inquiry saw representatives of five age categories describe their visions, share their personal wisdoms and take tough questions from an audience that was around 150 strong. In ascending order of years spent on this planet, Nathan Niedermeier (BUNDjugend / Young Friends of the Earth Germany), Sylvia Yirenkyi (WAGGGS), Ahmad Alhendawi (the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth), Christiana Figueres (UNFCCC Executive Secretary) and Jacques Lapouge (French Climate Ambassador and therefore future host to the decisive COP 21 in 2015) and their outspoken audience touched on issues of consumer habits, behaviour change, gender equity, green growth, minors’ inclusion in the negotiations, frustration management and never giving up on your dreams.
This was followed back-to-back by another side event, Youth Working with Children to Build a Sustainable Future for All, organized and facilitated by the Earth Child Institute, and featuring eloquent youth panellists Simona Zeroska, TUNZA Youth Advisor, and Federico Brocchieri of the British Council and Italian Youth Climate Network, alongside the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth (no rest for him!) and three speakers working on environmental education for different UN agencies (FAO, UNEP and UNICEF). The great potential of peer-to-peer education was celebrated; the need for decision-makers’ accountability to youth was emphasized; and several requests for more on-the-ground activities, in particular in developing countries where online activism is not an option, were among the main topics discussed.
Attending COP 19 with the explicit mandate from Ban Ki-moon to explore how the youth climate movement would envision the ‘seat at the table’ promised them during the planned 2014 Climate Summit, the Secretary General’s Envoy was greeted with much excitement. Unsurprisingly, his commitment to set a new standard for youth representation and participation at the Summit was warmly received. Ahmad will be attending the conference for two more breakless days of meetings with youth and high-level players, relaying communications back and forth and concretizing options. More on this soon!
Young and Future Generations’ day is a special day. Multiple under 18s were admitted to the conference, including a delegation of highly engaged Chinese youth who gave a colourful presentation about their projects at home; a particularly passionate panelist in the Intergenerational Inquiry – and a real, live baby girl, who was rather pleased to meet her Envoy.
Those were the extraordinary events of Young and Future Generations Day. Amid all this, COP 19’s youth delegates did not neglect to participate actively in the 'regular' negotiations, for instance addressing the working group on Article 6 to ask for increased meaningful and inclusive youth participation, especially for marginalized groups. The efforts of the large, virtual youth network, Connected Voices, to facilitate interaction for those who could not be present physically were highlighted.
In sum total, 14th of November was not a ‘regular’ day. There was a spark of promise in the air; a sense of opportunity and possibility, a current to be chanelled forward, always forward: to the end of the conference, through 2014 to 2015 and beyond.