Youth at COP24 - daunting or empowering?
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COP24, the annual global climate conference taking place in Poland this year, can be a daunting experience. Being stuck in a huge maze of pavilions, meeting rooms (named after unpronounceable Polish regions) and rare café points, without access to sunlight nor fresh air, in a very noisy space, one can easily feel out of place. The overflow of delegates running around, as if they had a purpose and knew exactly what to do to save the planet is only an illusion. In fact, there is only a dream outcome, but the roadmap is still being drafted (or as they say here, ‘in progress’). No one gives you a compass to ensure that you go the right direction during this conference. Which is why for adults who have learned to play this game, it is a lot easier to enter COP. We, little adults, feel inferior in this huge and complicated system. But we shouldn’t!
They need us! In times when raising taxes on harmful products meets a widespread opposition and changes are continuously prevented by conflict of interests, there is a need for better education. Not only in the sense of formal education but raising awareness. We have to take greater responsibility to make sure that our parents, neighbors, and friends are also committed to climate action. Together we have to better understand climate change and the impact of our daily activities. Climate education will ensure that projects implemented by governments are met with popular support.
This is our time! As active members of society and the best bridge between younger generations and older members of society, we as young people are key players in the process of increasing awareness. We are a powerful resource that until today has not yet been sufficiently used. We have the ability to create partnerships and speed up the process.
We need to take action now! First, we need to analyze the situation, learn about the impact of fossil fuels, the plastics in the oceans, disappearing beaches and bees, lost lakes and decreasing agricultural yields. Listen to stories online (especially from the Global South), watch videos from the Talanoa Dialogue, and search for credible articles that discuss climate change. And do not worry that you do not fully understand the process. Not even politicians understand the complexity of this sinking boat. Take on a perspective and begin to walk the talk. Start changing your patterns and decrease your carbon footprint.
Second, we have to make sure that this knowledge is also provided to our peers. Go to your teachers and challenge them – why have they never mentioned that your plastic ends up in oceans and kills more than 100,000 marine creatures and 1 million seabirds every year; why have they not told you that the increasing temperatures in cities which are dangerous to your health are also due to pollution from your parents’ car?
Do not stop there! Be an advocate of change in your communities and develop new ideas. Search for ways to engage in climate talks in your house, in your school, and in your city. Make sure that you listen and that you are also listened to. You have the right to be inside and not outside the closed doors where your future is being decided.
After a day or two, I have found my way around the COP24 maze and the complicated system of hundreds of small events, roundtable discussions, and plenary sessions. I found the doors, which I had to open to observe and call the governments to recognize our right to a just transition to a green society. I want them to know that we are in this together and that we as young generation are ready to implement new patterns of production and consumption to save our future. This is why even though at times it can be daunting; participating at COP24 is an empowering experience.