Rocking the UN floor

December 10, 2008

What an awesome day!

Young people met with Pachauri (Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) , called EU heads of state, had interviews, blogged, planned actions, met with Nicholas Stern, delivered a postcard to Peggy Wong, found countless nations and had them commit to safeguarding the survival of all countries and peoples.

And we also delivered two speeches (a special round of applause to Hanna, Marcie, Josh and Guppi for their awesome deliveries).

Youth LCA speech during Plenary session on 10 December 2008 

Scenario: Flashback to the successes achieved during COP 14 and 15, presented by a youth representative from a 2050 perspective.

All youth gather in the back of the plenary hall 

‘My grandfather told me a story about the cold December of 2008. He told me about car fumes that used to dominate the atmosphere, coal-fired power plants, polluted rivers and massive deforestation. Famine, drought and tropical disease were running rampant, while new coal-fired power plants were built next to poor communities every day. I thought he was joking, but the more history I read and pictures I saw, the more I realized he was telling me the truth.

But 2008 marked one of the most significant turning points in world history. Motivated by a global sense of urgency, countries put aside differences and decided to take bold necessary action.

What follows is an account of what happened in Poznan:

Countries stopped waiting around for Copenhagen and decided to take immediate action. In Poznan, a strong negotiating mandate was established, which enabled the most effective and equitable climate action in history.

Recognizing the dangers that climate change posed to the basic rights of billions of people, the parties acted on the targets that AOSIS, LDC’s, thousands of scientists and youth from around the world had been advocating: bringing the world below 350 ppm CO2 equivalent within a framework that ensured the right to development for all.

A strong shared vision was established to protect the most vulnerable and ensure the rights of generations to come. This vision included robust targets of 80% global emissions reductions by 2050 and comprehensive support for low-carbon development around the world. Industrialized countries took the lead and committed to repaying their ecological debt by making 95% reductions. 

Countries enacted a Green New Deal, investing in sustainable sectors of the economy and creating millions of green jobs, to pull the world out of the financial crisis. 

They also dramatically increased adaptation funding through the UNFCCC in addition to existing aid commitments. This helped millions of people cope with climate impacts already being felt.

All conference parties agreed to safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples.

The rational, informed and visionary voices of youth were heard. Starting in Poznan, there was a movement among conference parties to include youth representation on every single country’s national delegation. 

This is a nice story, isn’t it? But we’re not in the future, we’re in the present and unfortunately, at the moment it’s closer to fiction than the truth. If the current pace of negotiations continues, the world is at serious risk of runaway climate change. Many small island states will be condemned to drown, and my children will grow up in a very uncertain world. Is this even the kind of world where I’d want to have children?

However, young people are coming together in increasingly strong numbers to tell you that we demand more. Over the last eight days, we have sat in plenary listening to excuses and delay tactics and non-commitment from a select group of countries. 

We are tired of seeing bold suggestions from the smallest and most vulnerable countries completely disregarded by most wealthy countries, who instead counter-propose that all they can do is take shorter showers.  

We are here to tell you that will not stand for countries to continue to bicker and stall and play games with our future. We are here, standing before you, making concrete proposals, and we expect them to get taken up. In the spirit of long-term cooperative action, we have come together, over 500 of us, from 50 countries and many different backgrounds, to create a strong common vision.  More than any moment in history, you must follow our lead and do the same. 


Youth Speech to SBSTA Plenary Session, 10 December 2008.   

On behalf of the International Youth Delegation, thank you for this opportunity.

It is well known that forests play a critical role in regulating carbon in the atmosphere.  But they are also the home and source of the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people.  They protect our watersheds, regulate water flow and disease, and recycle nutrients.  Their contribution to the world’s biodiversity is unparalleled.  

We cannot continue to view forests in a utilitarian, compartmentalized, reductionist manner.  Forests are more than trees and carbon.  Forests are life.

Given the crucial roles played by forests, the International Youth Delegation has been closely monitoring the negotiations surrounding REDD.  We are encouraged to see that REDD is a priority here in Poznan, but are gravely concerned about certain proposed features and omissions within the REDD mechanism and the weak recommendations SBSTA has made to the UNFCCC. 


Any REDD mechanism must be first and foremost a mechanism for forest protection and climate stabilization, not a mechanism by which Annex-I countries avoid domestic mitigation actions. An offset mentality and massive corporate profits are not, and should not be, the aims of this scheme.  Buying a plantation in a developing nation cannot replace genuine reductions at the source of emissions – in nations like mine.

Going back to first principles, it is vital that the UNFCCC definition of forests be changed to exclude woody-crop plantations.  They store less carbon, less securely and less permanently. We are truly astounded that this seemingly obvious point requires comment.  The conversion of natural forests to plantations is deforestation, pure and simple. The perverse outcomes of the Kyoto definition have shown us that. Moreover, forest degradation should be wholistically defined as any loss of carbon carrying capacity or any harm to biodiversity.  

Critically, a REDD mechanism must clarify and strengthen the land tenure rights of local and indigenous peoples, not further degrade them.  It was shocking to hear yesterday that some nations here – including my own Australia – wanted to negotiate away the rights of first peoples. Our message on Human Rights Day is that these rights are non-negotiable. 

Representatives of indigenous peoples have come all the way to Poznan to speak with you here.  Why should they wait until February 15 to submit this recommendation to the UNFCCC?  How can we expect someone to be a responsible steward of the land if he or she knows that it could be wrested from them at any moment?  Land scarcity and insecurity have been at the root of countless conflicts throughout human history, but we remain confident that we can find a way to secure Green Carbon that won’t ultimately require the deployment of the Blue Helmets.  

I know that the indigenous peoples here, and the International Youth Delegation, will express our views to you throughout this process, for as long as it takes. Just be aware that, for many peoples, and the ancient forests that sustain them, every day that we take to deliberate is another day of irreversible destruction.

We ask only that you take our thoughts into account when planning for the future of our generations.

Your children are tired of dressing up like polar bears and penguins in and effort to convince you to act in a manner consistent with science and conscience, a manner that respects the natural cycles and systems that govern us.  

Your children are tired of being called foolish for prioritizing the preservation of our common home over profit margins.  

Your children are tired of reminding you that we are here to safeguard the survival of all countries and all people.  

Shalt thou be saved but hear the whole world cry?

I once heard that the single thing that all humans share is a desire to pass on to their children a secure future.  Please – give us a reason to believe this is true.  Give us a bold, binding and just climate treaty that features science-based targets, effective LULUCF rules, and an equitable REDD mechanism. 



I am so proud to be a part of this movement that is transcending national borders, bringing so many amazing people together, and pushing the whole world in the right direction.


One comment

  1. […] in the Arctic Voyage for the Future with WWF « Rocking the UN floor UKYCC January Newsletter January 4, 2009 Dear Friends of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: