This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Bérénice Jond, Board Member of the European Youth Forum.
We are standing on the edge of the precipice, looking down at a situation which we do not want witness. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sounds rather dull and technical, but in fact, it is one of the most important moments that our generation faces to stop the destruction of our planet by agreeing an ambitious and binding agreement on climate change.
Young people and youth organisations are key to ensuring that this is a process that engages the younger generations – surely the generations that the continuing change in climate will impact the most?
That is why we will be there to have our voice heard! We hope to push governments to come up with the ambitious deal that is necessary. The objective of this agreement is both very simple in its wording and extremely difficult. Keeping global warming below 2°C becomes a more and more difficult challenge as years go by. Adding global inequalities between countries and a widespread short-term political vision make the Paris conference agreement a challenge of which many doubt the ambition.
Civil society organisations – and among them youth organisations – have a big role to play here. Remembering the Copenhagen COP in 2009, civil society has been preparing for Paris since last year for its strongest ever rally in climate change negotiation history. Despite the two huge demonstrations cancellation following the Paris attacks, civil society is looking into alternative ways to make sure negotiators don’t forget to whom they are accountable, even when working behind closed doors: the people.
And a very significant part of the people is the younger generations. For 10 years they have been pushing to contribute to the negotiation process, organising before each COP a Conference of Youth (COY) aiming to raise awareness, training young people on climate change issues, and creating a youth position to be spread during the COP.
This year’s COY will be no exception to the rule. Nevertheless, the organisers have decided to change a few rules to make the event the start of a momentum up to the final hurdle.
It’s no news that climate change does not affect everyone in the same way, and social inequalities do have a role in that. Also, if environmental civil society organisations have historically been rather lonely in advocating for more action to prevent and reduce climate change, it is simplistic to see climate change issues only from an environmental point of view. In fact, these issues tend to be cross-sectorial, since they call for a global shift in our ways of living, working, consuming, being educated…
Taking this into account, the COY organisers, the WARN! movement, the REFEDD (The French Network of Students for Sustainable Development), CliMates, Avenir Climatique and the French Scouting Federation, have decided to broaden the concept. This year, about 5,000 young people will gather in Villepinte (next to Le Bourget where the COP21 will happen), from November 26th to the 28th, three days leading up to the COP. This event will be a festive one, with a long-term mobilising goal in order to create an international community of young people striving for a more desirable and sustainable way of life. Both the program and the venue will fit every participant’s needs. From expert or just passer-by, to climate militant or not, each and everyone will be able to find their way. The space will both inform and mobilise young people, to raise and showcase existing solutions and to connect participants in a fun atmosphere.
With the COY event, local COYs in other countries will be organised to rally even more young people all around the world. If they cannot come to the COY, the COY will come to them!
Besides these timely events, the European Youth Forum, with an informal network of its member organisations, hopes to ensure that climate change remains high on the agenda for the coming years.
More and more young people are trying to shift the paradigm in which we live to start building a desirable future for everyone regardless of their social background or the place that they live. Understanding the cross-sectorial nature of what is at stake, believing in social and climate justice and fighting climate change with alternatives and positivism, this is the recipe to a new kind of activism of which young people are torch-bearers, for real!
We call on world leaders, during these negotiations, to truly listen to the voice of civil society and to young people, whose future is at stake.