Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A lifetime’s journey

Sharing a passion for tackling climate change

I’m in the middle of COY. For those not used to United Nations jargon, this is the International Conference of Youth, or to break it down even more, it’s an event for young people from all over the world to meet before the international climate change talks.

We come together to share our personal stories of what we’ve all been doing in our own countries, to discuss the future, and to have fun. In a word: awesome.

The Conference of Youth is entirely run by, and run for young people. It’s a place where activity is constantly happening; the vibe is electric as people share their passions for tackling climate change. And what’s best is that it’s all young people, with all the liveliness and energy they bring.

I’ve met a Durban footballer who plans to talk to people about climate change at all of his matches. I’ve met Americans and Canadians who fought, and won, the Tar Sands campaign. Most of all, I’ve met the amazing climate caravan of young people who have travelled 4,400 km, overland, all the way down from Nairobi in Kenya to here in Durban. On their journey they danced, sang and energised people to fight climate change. Here’s the moment <http://www.twitvid.com/63TPL> when the caravan arrived at the Conference of Youth. We’re in there somewhere, dancing badly as only the British can, we promise.

I’ve learnt so much here and made some amazing friends. The message I’ve taken away from it, is that this isn’t just a weekend, but the beginning of a lifetime’s journey!

You can follow our progress in South Africa by reading our blogs at un.ukycc.org, following us @ukyccdelegation http://twitter.com/ukyccdelegation or emailing us your thoughts and hopes delegation.enquiries@ukycc.org

Helen Markides, UKYCC Youth Delegate to the UN climate talks.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Securing our Future, Saving the Planet

Young people at the UN climate talks
A few evenings ago I watched “A Time to Kill”, a film set in the American Deep South starring my favourite two actors, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman. In this film the rape of 10-year old black girl precipitates alarming scenes of racial hatred and the revival of the local Klu Klux Klan. It struck me that this film, set in 1996, implies that such events were to some small degree plausible at that time.

Little to my knowledge – I was 7 years old in 1996 – the concept of racial supremacy and gross injustices such as those depicted apparently persisted in the public consciousness, or at least that of American film directors. But today, Barack Obama is in the White House, Nelson Mandela is free and we have achieved racial freedom in South Africa – all things that might have seemed impossible a few decades ago. And if such huge and seemingly insurmountable challenges can be overcome, I hope that the next challenge to be overcome will be climate change.

This week, I’m travelling to Durban, South Africa to the climate negotiations, as part of the UK Youth Climate Coalition's delegation, to join with other young people from around the world to show leaders that we need a solution to climate change, that we won’t cease in our ambition and won’t stop asking for one. We will get to a solution no matter how hard the path, because young people aren’t the bystanders in this process; we’re the ones who’ll be dealing with the consequences of the decisions which can jeopardise our future, or secure it, can gamble with our planet, or save it.

Nor do we lack the tools to deal with this problem and to create the wide, grassroots movement asking for change that must be at the core of any transition to a better society. A few days ago, I came across this Facebook post by a friend:

Just sorting through my old school exercise books and have found an I.T. exercise to explain the advantages and disadvantages of computers vs. filing cabinets. Computers apparently lose: they can get viruses; they use power; you need training to use them; they can crash; and they're more expensive. How things have changed?”

How things have changed – computers now feature daily in the lives of people throughout the world and are increasingly deployed in the fight against climate change. This is just one tool at our disposal and we arguably have all the other necessary tools to fight climate change: the technical knowledge and skills; the finances – all that is missing is the political will. In the coming weeks, I and the rest of the UK youth delegation will be putting everything into the United Nations process at the 17th round of the UN climate negotiations in Durban, lobbying, advocating and campaigning for a fair and ambitious solution.

Hopefully in South Africa (no stranger to change) we can demonstrate the urgency and strength of feeling that our generation holds, and motivate politicians to take up their tools and get to work on this grossest of injustices.

You can follow our progress in South Africa by reading our blogs at un.ukycc.org, following us @ukyccdelegation http://twitter.com/ukyccdelegation or emailing us your thoughts and hopes delegation.enquiries@ukycc.org

Cat Stace, Youth Delegation to the UN Climate Talks, UK Youth Climate Coalition.