COP Day 4: Youth and Future Generations Day

Youth take a distinctive role in the functionality of COP. High-ranking ministers participate in negotiations, researchers and climate leaders provide the greater audience with updates on innovations, studies, and policy from around the world, but youth largely lead the action that takes place on the COP20 grounds.

On December 4th, Youth and Future Generations Day, there were a number of side events both attended and led by the younger COP contingency that were focused on the status of current youth in the climate movement and the inclusion of rights for future generations within the COP negotiations. At “Intergenerational Inquiry: Youth as Agents of Change,” youth and adult leaders from around the world thanked the large, young audience for the work they have done for the planet and for engaging others to assist in this work.

I often take for granted among my peers the understanding that the planet is in danger. Still though, even those that have this understanding often refrain from taking action (even small ones like turning off their lights when they leave their apartment). How, then, are we supposed to expect those around the world without access to this knowledge, or those that must focus on social injustice or finding enough food to eat, to continue to work to mitigate the damage that our parents and grandparents have done? Members on this panel expressed that the 1/2 of the world that is under 25 are labelled “change-makers” for now and for the future, not just out of passion, but because there really is no other way. They persisted that we must renounce the international boundaries that past generations have created for us, and be bound together with a common goal; we must start with being active in our own lives, and then help change the rest, locally and internationally.

This action is real at COP. Many youth groups commit to actions daily that display the current state of negotiations and events around the world at a graspable level and through methods that can be easily delivered to greater society. (Fossil of the Day is a great example).  Peers at COP have expressed that they participate in such action because they believe that those at the high level are not doing enough- that they are focusing too deeply on the letters, words, and punctuation, and not the words between the lines. In his closing statement, Nicholas Nuttall (UNFCCC Coordinator, Communications and Outreach) had a slightly different point of view. He explained that action is taking place here within the negotiations, just not fast enough. Youth must challenge, mobilize, and influence so as to act not as agents of change, but as accelerators of change.

The audience was told “the power is in your hands if you can put it into practice. Don’t just wait for power to be given to you. The power is in your hands.”

Today, about 1/3 of food is lost throughout the sourcing and consumption process. If this food loss were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter in the world behind the US and China. What are you going to do about it?

Sabrina Korman is a recent Sustainable development graduate of Columbia University, and is a COP20 Delegation Member.