Youth Voices & Intergenerational Equity at COP

Written by Bethany Hindmarsh, BCCIC Youth Delegate to COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Bethany is part of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP 22 a group of 17 young people who act as the voice of the Canadian youth climate movement in the United Nations climate negotiations.

Hello from COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco! My name is Bethany Hindmarsh, and I live on unceded Snuneymuxw land on Vancouver Island. I’m at COP now with the Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD), a group of 17 young people who act as the voice of the youth climate movement in the United Nations climate negotiations.

I wanted to begin by telling you more about why—and how—the CYD does the work we do, so I spoke with some Canadian Youth Delegates from previous delegations to earlier United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings. I wanted to hear about why they think it’s important that young people be present in climate negotiations, as well as to hear their thoughts about what the youth voices in negotiations mean for young people who are following the global politics of climate change from home. Here are some of their answers:

 What is the role of young people at COP?

Robin Tress: “The role of youth is to de-sanitize COP. To bring the anger, fear, injustice, and humanity of climate change into the negotiations. You’re not bureaucrats, you’re humans. . . Don’t shy away from that. Own it and use it.”

Erica Violet Lee: “Use your anger, your strength, your sadness, your joy. Use your passion and your energy, and your belief that this world deserves so much better than we have been given.”

Stephen Thomas: “Youth play a critical role in climate negotiations. We – along with the global south, and frontline and First Nation communities across Mother Earth – are not in a position to compromise. We bear the responsibility of demanding and creating radical systemic change, of being sure justice and intersectionality with other fights are central to our theory of change. We understand that we hold the keys to one another’s survival. We, unlike the wealthy decision-makers that came before us, do not have the luxury of compromising our future or our planet.”

 What is your message to youth currently at COP?

Nimra Amjad: “My message is for youth to feel like they can self-authorise. Whether it is outside or inside the negotiations, know that you deserve to be there. Don’t assume that those in power have more of a right to be there. Talk to other civil society folks, and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Try and gather intelligence and coordinate with other Canadian and youth civil society to support your actions. The [Paris] Agreement has been established, so now we have a set criteria to hold our government accountable. Rest. Enjoy yourself. Learn. Reflect. Take time for yourself if it feels like too much. Know that you are leaving a legacy and that you are part of a movement.”

Robin Tress: “To anyone at COP right now: witness what is going on there. Watch who has power and who doesn’t. Watch what your own country does, and doesn’t do. . . and then go home and build something better. I think the most valuable thing I learned at COP was to put my faith and energy in the right places.”

Torrance Coste: “At the conclusion of COP21, former Phillipines negotiator Yeb Sano said that the world won’t be saved inside the rooms of this conference, but at home in our communities. You are building your power and your strength to come home and fight in your communities. You are inspiring your communities and others to get into this fight and take action.”

 What is your message to young people at home, following the news right now?

Stephen Thomas: “We must stand with, and take leadership from, the people who have been on the frontlines of the [climate]struggle. Our struggles are connected. . . Support those who are facing the worst of this, and who are building a new way of being. We must hold each other through this. We must unlock our own power. We can heal, we can work together, we can win. Be good to each other, and fight like hell.”

Erica Violet Lee: “The UN is one space of power, and a wonderful place to make a scene, but our true power lies in our communities and our homes. The frontlines of this massive struggle are everywhere. Allow women of colour to lead, center Indigenous people, treat each other with care, and create safe organizing spaces wherever you are.”

Bronwen Tucker: “Some of us have the unearned luxury of deciding whether or not to sit on the sidelines. If that’s you, I’m urging you to keep choosing love, action, and standing up for what is right. I’m urging you to keep listening and supporting those most impacted and keep doing the work in your own communities to fight hate.”

Written by Bethany Hindmarsh, BCCIC Youth Delegate to COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Bethany is part of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP 22 a group of 17 young people who act as the voice of the Canadian youth climate movement in the United Nations climate negotiations. All people quoted in this post are present Canadian youth at COP 22 as part of the Canadian Youth Delegation. You can follow Bethany on Twitter for live updates from COP 22 at @bthmrsh 

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