– About 1,000 young people from around the world have gathered in Cancun, calling for intergenerational equity and strong climate solutions at the United Nations talks. Thursday was “Young and Future Generations Day,” a day dedicated to celebrating the power and unity of the youth movement, but also to highlighting the critical role that young people play in the international negotiations. Through press conferences, presentations and a colorful faux “Youth Market,” young people pushed international leaders to use the two-week negotiations as an opportunity to lay the foundation for decisive action. “Young people will be the most affected by the climate change and consequences of negotiators’ inaction,” said Carra Cheslin, a member of SustainUS, a U.S. youth-based volunteer organization. “While we appreciate the opportunity to be involved in the UN process, we believe youth should have an even stronger presence at the talks.” Nearly 50 young people lined up outside Cancunmesse Thursday morning as negotiators walked by to board buses for the Moon Palace, where the climate talks are taking place. They demonstrated in silence as a show of solidarity for the hundreds of thousands of youth fighting for climate change solutions. “The purpose of this day is to bring the need for intergenerational implementation to the attention of the decision makers present in Cancun,” said Alina Pokhrel of the Nepalese Youth for Climate Action. “We are urging them to follow our lead and understand the necessity of international cooperation and concern for the welfare of the young and future generations regardless of national borders.” Nearly 100 other youths gathered at organizations’ booths in Cancunmesse Thursday afternoon to “sell their futures.” With colorful posters and props, they created a fake marketplace where participants could trade and bargain natural resources, such as trees and clean air. The message, organizers say, is that negotiators are “selling our futures” every time they neglect to reach a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty. Young climate scientists and activists from the United States, Canada, South Asia, France and Kenya also spoke about the actions they’ve taken back home to find solutions to climate change and research that they hope will inspire policymakers to craft science-based regulations that address the most challenging climate impacts. “We want to raise awareness about the threat of climate change globally and let people know that it’s possible to reduce emissions if every individual makes an effort,” said Trine Thomsen from Denmark representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Other “Young & Future Generations Day” events included:
* Hug Kyoto Day: Japanese youth and others offered free hugs to delegates to show support for Kyoto’s now-rocky, 13-year-old relationship with Japan. There was also a photo booth where delegates could pose with “Kyoto.”
* A climate action dance for solutions led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) outside the Azteca Building at the Moon Palace. The dance was first presented at a climate change conference in Canada in 2005 and made popular in Copenhagen last year when hundreds of youth performed it on the opening day of the negotiations.
* An interactive forum on the personal experiences of Canadian, South Asian & U.S. youth with climate change and strategies in activism to stop it hosted by SustainUS, Clean Energy Nepal and Tides Canada Initiatives Society.
* A discussion by the representatives from the YOUNGO youth constituency, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, scientists, representatives of UN agencies and key negotiators from developed and developing countries from around the world on how their actions contribute to a collective solution to climate challenges and what they see as important prerequisites for reaching an effective post-2012 agreement.
* An event on preparing young people for climate change organized by FAO, UNEP and UNEP National Committee for the Republic of Korea, UNESCO, UNICEF, British Council, WAGGGS and ECI, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practices in climate change education including informal and peer education * Recommendations by European Youth Forum (YFJ), Service Civil International and WAGGGS on integrating non-formal peer education to achieve the ultimate goal of the convention through the actions of young but empowered change agents, especially girls disproportionately affected by climate change.
Thank You to Abel Musumali of Green Enviro-Watch, Zambia for this report.