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Youth Actions Command Attention at Climate Summit

By Suzanne Maxx

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, December 11, 2009 (ENS) – Chanting “Our future, our future,” wearing bright orange t-shirts reading, “How Old Will You Be In 2050?” over 1,000 young people from countries around the world captured the attention of the world leaders, media, nongovernmental organizations, and delegates Thursday at the United Nations climate conference here in Copenhagen.

December 10th was the International Young and Future Generations Day at the conference, and youth actions through the day stopped people in their tracks.

Going through security clearance lines to enter the Bella Center in the morning, young people stripped down to their underwear. This action woke up even the most exhausted UN delegates and camera people.

Youth in action at the Copenhagen climate summit (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The conference has packed the newly designed environmentally sustainable building to capacity. There is so much going on simultaneously that is significant and captivating that the event is being called “The Earth Summit/Global Forum on Steroids.”

It takes loud voices and many bodies in common places to make people stop and pay attention, but the youth succeeded, and their message is being heard.

They are calling for bold climate leadership by their governments. Their collective vision is to protect their future and the lives of future generations threatened by climate change.

The year 2009 has seen an explosion of youth climate advocacy, and the emergence of what many young people in Copenhagen are calling the “International Youth Climate Movement,” bringing together hundreds of youth organizations and climate advocates from around the world.

Organized in partnership between the YOUNGO (youth) constituency and the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Youth and Future Generations Day sought to send a powerful message of intergenerational equity to conference delegates, as well as highlighting the vital role of youth as both advocates for, and implementers of climate solutions.

“Today’s youth will live their lives with the decisions made in Copenhagen, and our governments have a moral responsibility to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal,” said Prisca Randriamampihavana, 20, a youth delegate from Madagascar. “We want to ask world leaders, how old will you be in 2050?”

This question and the brilliance of their colors and actions caught the power. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said, “Young people … have brought their energy and creativity to the intergovernmental process, demanding concrete action from their governments.”

“I sense there is a real seriousness now to negotiate,” said de Boer, who is the UN’s chief climate official. He told reporters that he sees an “emerging” agreement, with countries wanting to see a new technical mechanism, including an executive body overseeing technological development and transfer, result from the conference.

He said there is a growing consensus to set up a consultative network for climate technologies which would support developing nations’ efforts to take action on adaptation to climate change already underway and also on mitigation of its effects.

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