After a power-packed week, Copenhagen is buzzing with pivotal moments - from delegations deciding whether they will stand with Tuvalu's bold proposal to mounting anticipation for President Obama's speech next week on Friday. Through all the dramatic twists and turns, the youth climate movement is steadfast: We're asking all the key decision-makers and influencers at this summit to get real about timelines and targets.
When President Obama takes the stage next week, we don't want to look back having left any pressure point untapped. We got our footing this week and I saw some amazing actions, but next week it's game time for our movement.
Obviously global agreements are difficult to achieve, but we have to rise above politics and convenience to meet the science-based challenges that lie ahead. We can't move forward without a detailed plan of action that addresses the problems and a set of deadlines to reinforce our agreements. We won't want to look back on this experience in Copenhagen as the point where we could have ensured decisive progress; where we could have sided with justice.
More than any other group here in Denmark, we are the ones with the most at stake. Fortunately, I can report that our representatives on the ground are hard at work making the case for aggressive, specific action. Our presence is nothing short of essential. And if you need to be reminded why, just check out this action coordinated by young people (including members of our SustainUS and Sierra Student Coalition!) where they took over a climate deniers conference:
In addition to amazing actions like this, the programming has been phenomenal.
Tonight I was an opening speaker at "The Fresh Air Center," a space for bloggers, journalists, and activists to work and convene in the center of Downtown Copenhagen. The center opened with remarks from myself, Anna Rose, Executive Director of the Australian Youth Climate Network, and Deepa Gupta, Executive Director, Indian Youth Climate Network. To hear these women recap the birth and development of the youth climate movement in their own countries and around the world was awe-inspiring. I've been yearning for these negotiations to move me deeply, and it was the vision and power of these women that finally ignited some hope in my spirits. I can hardly imagine what the world looks like when it's ruled by dynamic, visionaries like the women I was honored to share the stage with tonight.
There have been other highlights as well. I kicked off Wednesday with a group from YOUNGO (youth NGOs), who spent the morning . We gathered at 8am in the Bella Conference Center, where youth from around the world convened to agree on proposals, update one another on progress within our respective delegations, and set out to dominate the day's conversation inside and outside the negotiations. It was amazing to watch the process unfold as one young person from each delegation, working in sync with one another from the global north, global south and beyond, committed to justice. It makes one wonder: Just how different would the Copenhagen negotiations be if we replaced the government-appointed negotiators with the youth in that room? I suspect it would be a very different outcome. Sadly, the world cannot wait until these remarkable young people assume the role of negotiator. We have no choice but to use our influence, maturity, and foresight to move our delegations into the right place.
This came on the heels of a strong day Tuesday, in which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requested a meeting with young leaders from around the world. I attended, along with a powerful group of young leaders from India, the European Union, Kenya, and Canada, to meet with Lisa and discuss our collective concerns. It was invigorating to see so many young people come out of the meeting encouraged that a US official was so willing to listen. Several of the leaders seemed actually surprised, and ultimately more convinced than ever that the US needs to be more audacious in its approach. They appeared hopeful that such a champion as Lisa exists within our administration.
I know not everyone can be here to experience these things on the ground, and that the mainstream media at home is inexplicably carrying on about whether global warming is real and Sarah Palin's ridiculous Washington Post op-ed, but if we stick to the issues we can lead the way for serious people to achieve change. We cannot get lost in the hyperbolic tendencies of both sides of this debate. We must remain focused on the outcome that leads to fundamental justice for all people, regardless of creed, class, global north or global south.
The negotiation process brings out some of the deepest and most significant inequities that exist in society, both domestically and globally. This riff that defined Week One, at its core, is about whether or not we as an international community are prepared to pay what's due, accept and commit to true responsibility for our actions, and offer assistance and support for those who need it most. Since our movement is about justice, it's where our core supporters who have been fighting so long for a clean and just energy future must step up. It's time for youth to declare that we will fight for the justice of all people.
We'll make sure that President Obama and everyone else is listening next week.