12/11/2009 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Jessy Tolkan tells Midwest youth to flex political muscle

On Friday, I caught up with Jessy Tolkan at the Bella Center in Copenhagen to find out how about what Midwest youth can do about climate change. Tolkan, who is the executive director of the Energy Action Coaliton, the largest network of youth climate activists in the U.S., revealed that she was a Midwesterner herself, hailing from Wisconsin. Here's what she said about youth flexing their political muscle in the Midwest.

My message to young people in the Midwest, is that the Midwest, in many ways, is the key to unlocking a clean and just energy future in the United States.

It's also critical that we flex the political muscle that we have in the Midwest. There are some very key senators from places like Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, the Upper Midwest that really need to understand that a clean and just energy future is good for business in the Midwest, that there is a significant and powerful role for the agricultural community to play in a clean and just energy future.

It really is incumbent upon young people in the Midwest to have this conversation so that we're building the will for bold action in the Midwest that we need.

Some of the folks with the greatest amount of conviction hail from the Midwest so I know that if it can happen anywhere, it's definitely the Midwest.

While more than 1,000 youth from across the globe have been given official observer status in Copenhagen, Tolkan had some criticism for how the U.N. treats youth in international climate negotiations.

I think the U.N., while taking significant steps in the right direction, has continued to try and silo the young people as much as possible in this process. It's actually up to us to seize the opportunity to engage as directly in this process as possible and to make it very clear that we are a constituency as significant as any other constituency in this building.

Video and text by Liana B. Baker