U.N. climate talks leave youth out in the cold

December 5, 2008

There’s plenty of hot air filling the sprawling conference centre that houses the U.N. climate change talks this week and next in Poznan, Poland. But many of the 500 or so youth participants in the conference – who hail from more than 50 countries – feel left out in the political cold.

On Friday morning, six of them created a human installation in the lobby to draw attention to their demand for fair use of the world’s natural resources.

A banner emblazoned with “Equity now: Our future is in the balance” (see photo below) was flanked by two inflatable globes – one crushing an Indian delegate (photo left), representing today’s imbalance in consumption, and the other representing a more just world supported on either side by two young women from India and Sweden.

The installation artists told Reuters they were disappointed they didn’t have greater influence on the negotiations, and suggested their elder country representatives should take a leaf out of their book.

“There has been a real contrast between the youth coming together and putting their national interests aside and the failure of our nations to break the deadlock,” said Paul Ferris, 23, from Australia. 

The Dec. 1-12 talks in Poland are reviewing progress at the half-way stage of a two-year push for a new pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which is meant to be agreed by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen.

“We need to break the deadlock before Copenhagen – there is so much to do,” said Leela Raina, 19, from India. “We should have more ambitious goals,” chimed in My Sellberg, 20, from Sweden.

The young people said it was hard for them to get access to their own countries’ negotiators at the talks, but they were trying to corner them at the many events taking place on the sidelines of the conference.

Only the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium have given young people formal places on their teams at the talks in Poland.

Later at an “inter-generational inquiry on climate solutions”, the U.N.’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, cited a several-nation study that revealed 90 percent of young people wanted their politicians to take decisive action on global warming. But he said the youth voice was not being heard in climate negotiations.

“I think a lot can and should and must be done on the road to Copenhagen to ensure that voice is heard,” he said.

He urged governments to honour a promise to include youth in their teams, and young people to take every opportunity to speak out about their concerns and interests, including through the statement they are allowed to make in the high-level session for ministers.

Not being allocated an office or room of their own (except for one hour each day!) means most youth delegates have been forced to commandeer cafes and other public spaces for their meetings.

But Ruchi Jain, 22, from India took heart from a meeting between her country’s young representatives and de Boer, who had given them lots of encouragement and told them to do something “spectacular” (they’re still working on it).

Asked about their personal experiences of climate change, Jain mentioned floods and this year’s exceptionally cold winter in Mumbai. Australia’s Ferris said his father had been forced to abandon farming for teaching because of the severe droughts that have hit the major wheat-producing country in recent years.

The installation artists said that was why it was so critical to keep up pressure at the U.N. climate talks, to make sure the world was a better place for its future — them.

Anna Keenan of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition stressed that while governments argued, young conference participants were all agreed that rich nations needed to make deep emissions cuts. “All we need now is for our political leaders to…make the plans that we are already ready, willing and prepared to implement,” she said.

But there were signs patience was wearing thin. “If things don’t change over the next week, we’ll be more disheartened and frustrated and we’ll scale up our activities!” warned Ferris.


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Nations around the world should listen to their youth and take us seriously. Being young does not mean that we are uninformed or ignorant. We are just as motivated and have the capacity for change! =D

Posted by Ping | Report as abusive

absolutely amazing. :) keep it rolling.

Posted by chaitanya | Report as abusive

“90 percent of young people want their politicians to take decisive action on global warming.”

So why don’t they just do it already?

Keep up the good work!

Posted by Anna Keenan | Report as abusive


Young people are asking for (and offering) political leadership on Climate Change.

Posted by Derek | Report as abusive

I’m delighted to see young people setting an example to their leaders on climate change. It’s inspiring to see them uniting across national boundaries, even as governments find themselves completely unable to reach an agreement.

Keep up the good work, and know that people all over the world are cheering you on.

Posted by John Alamich | Report as abusive

So over 190 governments have promised to involve youth – and only 3 have done it?!

That is appalling!

Posted by Casper ter Kuile | Report as abusive

We do need to listen to these young people. The next 30 generations of human beings are going to be decisive in terms of whether the human species survives the coming Long Emergency might last 1000 years. Keep speaking up, youth of the world, and teach this to your children later on, too.

Posted by Danny Bloom | Report as abusive

We want our leaders to be ambitious on the climate talks. There is no room for national interests, just a space for EQUITY and SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. Young people would like to offer an alternative plan for negotiations which will not be political driven, but only humanism driven.
Keep the actions flowing…

Posted by Dinh (Belgian YD) | Report as abusive

Ghana National Youth Coalition on Climate Change ( GNYCCC)BELIVE THAT WHEN THE YOUTH VOICES ARE SOO LOUD
“when the voice of the people become so loud the government has no alternative but to listen” Martin Luther King Jnr.

Posted by Kenneth Nana Amoateng | Report as abusive

People can learn what all international youth delegates who are attending COP 14 are blogging about, producing videos and doing live webcasting at www.youthclimate.org

Posted by Adam MaIsaac | Report as abusive

Worldwide, youth leaders are stepping up. They are filling the void of leadership left by current political schemes and are assuming the leadership of today and tomorrow. They are turning the course of history and 2009 will be a watershed year for the Global Youth Climate Change movement.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

“Will we look into the eyes of our children and confess
that we had the OPPORTUNITY, but lacked the COURAGE?
That we had the TECHNOLOGY, but lacked the VISION?”

Money is NOT an issue here. That was clearly demonstrated by the trillions injected into banks as a result of the financial crisis. There is enough money in the world to combat climate change.



Posted by Karo | Report as abusive

Decision makers, what will you tell your children when you are retired and they have to deal with the environmental mess you left them to cope with?
Listen to us and hear us! It’s the foundations of our future you are laying now!
Someone said here “What is the point saving money now if there is not tomorrow to spend it?”

Posted by Pierre | Report as abusive

[…] We are helping to shift the international negotiations, joining with international youth to run dynamic actions highlighting key issues for the conference, for instancehttp://blogs.reuters.com/environ ment/2008/12/05/un-climate-talks-leave-y outh-out-in-the-cold/ […]

Posted by Australian Youth Climate Coalition » From Amanda in Poznan | Report as abusive

We are so concerned with preserving capitalism, free markets and democracy that we have forgotten about preserving a healthy environment for children to live in. More over, big business and industry are no longer in denial about the effect that their activities have on the environment. Many now clamor for leadership from world governments on the fossil fuel question. It is evident to me that the capitalist system is incapable of addressing environmental issues. Even more alarming is world governments inability to come to any agreement on a course of action. It is clear how we use and produce energy is critical to our survival. The wealthy nations of the world must embark on a publicly funded campaign to change the way we power our vehicles, homes and businesses. We must use our resources sustainably and learn to live with less. If we do this on a financial scale much larger than the Manhattan Project, we will put millions to work and quite possibly chart a path to peace as nations will no longer struggle for control of fossil fuels and other limited resources.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

The UN often leaves many out in the cold. They do not want to clean up the environment. They are gaining too much control and money to give that up. People need to realize that these international organizations are not in place to hear from ordinary people or groups. Global control is what they are shooting for. The illuminati is not interested in our opinions.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Youth should be involved and it could be facilitated if modern technology was used. eg video conference, webinar etc.

Consumption like air travel causes GHG and travelling should not be an option for any of the participants. Use technology, no exceptions

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

this step is the best step that the youth has taken n im really proud of them that they rae going worldwide …….

Posted by coolkhush | Report as abusive

this is really comendable yes i know that even im prud of them ………

Posted by tishabridges | Report as abusive