Three espressos into the day and I was ready for a nap, but the afternoon side event I chose to attend turned out to be surprisingly invigorating and inspiring. Since I did not get an NGO ticket to the APA informal consultation I wanted to attend, I decided to check out the “Intergenerational Inquiry: the Highlight of the Young and Future Generations Day 2016” side event. To be honest I thought these sessions were going to be demonstrations of what governments or local communities can do to help increase awareness. Instead, I walked into a highly energized, passionate display of youths from around the world who are a part of YOUNGO. YOUNGO organizes the Conference of Youth (COY12) every year which is hosted before the annual COP, and today presented several inspiring youth-led initiatives.
Richard Kinley, opened the meeting in a reflective mood because this is his last COP, as he will be leaving his role as UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary next year. He reminded us that we are in a much better place for climate change action than we were in 1991, however we are nowhere near the necessary commitments as it might even be too late. These youth, then, are so important because they are the faces of social and economic change. They are the drivers of the market, and therefore have immense capacity to create change as they help drive new social lifestyles and economic models. Mr. Kinley reminded us that the change we need is immense, and it is going to take the energy, vigor, commitments, and passion of youth to keep pushing forward.
The floor then turned to several young people who are fighting climate change. Fazoua Bour, a member of COY12, explained that the Moroccan youth civil society has tried to deliver a message to the delegates involved in COP22. In a passionate speech, Ms. Bour proclaimed that young people are qualified to make proposals, even here at a UN conference; ideas are is not about age, but about capacity. Therefore, COY12 is campaigning for action, education, and for young people who want to express their ideas. There is not enough time to wait to for adults to negotiate, argue, and implement a global agreement.
Young people are starting to fear that these agreements will take too long and the solutions will be too late. They feel the urgency climate change impacts, and are therefore the ones who can be creative enough to help us develop solutions. As Hakima El Haite, the COP22 Special Envoy and Morocco’s Climate Champion, said “we are too old to re-imagine the world…[however] we have the responsibility to make it a reality to improve your world, the one you are dreaming of.” One example of this creativity was displayed, as they also presented the COY12 award-winning film. The young woman who made the film explained that every documentary she had seen about climate change was too depressing and boring so she has created a film series of fun, inspiring images to make people interested and dedicated to the cause.
These are the ideas the world needs. In light of recent events, we now face increasing obstacles to promote the health of the environment, but I never want to look at my younger cousins or future children and have to say, “I’m sorry I didn’t do enough.” The young people at this event today reminded me of my pre-coffee, pre-law school, pre-nightly-wrinkle-cream days (I am 24 years old). When I was a kid I was crazy about earth, I had the energy to run through parks, pretend to talk to animals, once I even climbed a tree to prevent my neighbors from cutting it down. I don’t know when I got to be so tired and honestly lost that sense of hope. The YOUNGOs are a force to be reckoned with and I applaud them for their enthusiasm and appreciate that push they gave me this afternoon.