Reflections from the 10th Conference of Youth

Soscha de la Fuente, Dutch Youth Representative on Sustainable Development

After being elected as youth representative for the Netherlands just three weeks ago, this past Thursday I found myself on a plane to Lima, Peru to attend the 10th Conference of Youth (COY10) and the COP20 climate negotiations. The COY opening ceremony, with speeches from UNFCCC Executive-Secretary Christiana Figueres and the Peruvian Minister of the Environment, had one clear message: get together, work hard, and learn from each other. Make sure your voice is heard!

Not knowing what is ahead can be scary, and on my way to the first day at the COY10, I felt small and intimidated. On day two we started working on our Declaration of Youth in small groups, mine consisting of young people from France, Taiwan, Barbados, Peru and many other places. We were educators, activists, representatives and students; but mostly we were all concerned citizens. We got the chance to share our experiences, our worries, our success stories and our ideas. And because of all our differences, we were able to create a statement on education that is innovative and diverse; and can be used by our governments, as well as each other.

At the end of COY10 on Sunday I felt strong and empowered, and had connected with young people from all over the world. I was no longer just one person fighting against climate change, instead I now had an entire army next to me. In just those three days, we managed to prepare a Declaration of Youth that has inspired us all to work even harder. And we promised each other the following: “We, as the youth present at COY10, will share our knowledge and information of sustainable development, climate change and climate policy, and the environment with our peers and communities both formally and informally. We will share our experiences and lessons learned, as well as our educational tools, as teachers and as students.”

Reflections from COP20, Day 1

Cristina dalla Torre and Luciano Frontelle, Youth Press Agency

“We must put adaptation at the same level as mitigation”. Those were the words of Christiana Figueres at the opening session of COP20. This relates to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which states that with the current rise in temperature, there have been visible effects on the health of the planet. The gap between the causes of the climate change and its effects is tightening, meaning that impacts are becoming more and more real. One of the impacts that is already being felt is that of food shortages, due to the impacts climatic changes are having on agriculture.

But today at COP20 we didn't just have speeches on this issue, we also had an action. Fast for the Climate, which aimed to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on food and the lack of ambition to cope with them. This action gathered people at the central court at lunch time, sitting around a table with empty dishes. The message that participants wanted to deliver was that they were voluntarily fasting to remember those that are forced to, due to food shortages.

Both speeches and real examples of action play a positive role in the COP, since in their own way they can both lead to decisions being taken at the Conference. By that we mean that public opinion demands to see governments reach an agreement that tackles the challenges of climate change in an ambitious way, and addresses the effects that are already being felt but that have so far been ignored.

This first day has much to teach us about the fact that even though the topics at the centre of the negotiations are very complex and positions are controversial, there are people that in many fronts are working to take us out of the comfort zone and lead to the future that we need.