Today was Young and Future Generation Day at COP 19. Myself, Thea, and Heather attended the panel session Intergenerational Inquiry at COP 19/CMP 9. Before the event began, the room was bustling with a diverse group of young people. One young man was joking about casually saying “Oh hey Christina!” to Executive Secretary Figueres as she sat at the front of the room. All of his friends laughed.
This session was the most high energy session that I have been to thus far. It made me feel a little bit more alive, and was a true reflection of the real reasons why we are all here at COP 19. I think I can also categorize the session as the most inspirational too, because of the words of Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who was a panelist.
I was impressed with the strong, powerful voices of the two young panelists.
Nathan Niedermeier, Youth Delegate from Germany said: “We’re not only here fighting against something; we’re fighting FOR something. There are too many people who are not listening to us, who aren’t listening to our solutions. Instead they are listening to the economy.”
Ms. Sylvia Yirenkyi, Youth Delegate from Ghana said: “Being a young female in Africa makes me very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Young people from the global south should have a greater representation at the COP……. We are the future, and we demand that the future be heard.”
But Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres took me most by surprise. For a few moments, she took her Executive Secretary hat off and said that she was speaking to us as a female and a mother. She explained that the real reason she has dedicated her life to her cause is because she wants her daughters, and her future grandchildren, to be living in a healthier planet. She does what she does to protect the future generations. In regard to slow progress, she expressed that she was equally frustrated. Secretary Figueres said: “This is a marathon. This is not a sprint. This is a LONG battle.” She told the crowd to imagine their deepest darkest frustration, and then multiply that times 194 and that was her level of frustration!
Her advice to the millenials: USE YOUR POWER! Tell the commercial industry that you demand low carbon products. Tell your 1,000 facebook friends that you care about climate change; cause more people in your life to care.
Figueres was a ball of fire in the room, and during the Q&A session all of the Youth were directing their questions for her. The Moderator had to remind everyone that there were other great panelists who could answer questions too (but this did not make a difference).
As a final note, I feel that the accepted custom of climate change academics and people who care about climate change is often to be very critical of others and their honest efforts, maybe because they do not feel that the work of others is sufficient enough. We seem to be breeding a cynical culture, and I feel a need to promote more positivity. Let’s try to entertain the idea of fostering a culture of education rather than condemnation. I think that in doing so, we might add more fuel to the fire, rather than stifle it out. Actually, this is a terrible climate change metaphor. Instead I will say, in doing so we might add more water to our plant, and watch it grow.
This is why my Blossoming Leadership Award of the Day goes to Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. She is open, honest, and straight forward. She puts off good vibes (better, lets say, than COP President Marcin Korolec) and she doesn’t bullshit (excuse my French). When she is asked tough questions, she answers them directly and thoroughly. In my mind, she represents strong female leadership and she is trying her best to bring cooperation to this process.