If not now, then when? Less talk, more action on climate change, say today's youth

by Joanna Benn

It was a blaze of colour, energy and passion, but more importantly, it was a statement.

The youth came together with a clear goal: to urge leaders to take heed and not ignore global warming, nor the needs of the next generation.

The young people came from around the globe to Daejeon (Republic of Korea) as part of the global UN-wide '
Seal the Deal!' campaign spearheaded by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to galvanize political will and public support for a comprehensive global climate agreement.

In a
statement, the young delegates – representing three billion of the world’s population – expressed their “concern and frustration that their governments are not doing enough to combat climate change”, adding that “we now need more actions and less talking”.

“It is very important to include the voice of children and youth in every environmental decision. It is our request to all politicians that they please take this statement into consideration in Copenhagen,” said 13-year-old Yugratna Srivastava from India.

The children and youth also pushed businesses and government to create a global green economy and for the promotion of environmentally friendly products and eco-labelling policies.

The final statement is the culmination of eight-week-long discussions between young people across the planet using the scope and reach of the internet.

It was finalized at a Global Town Hall on 20 August in Daejeon, where the 600 participants were joined by over 200 young people in 15 cities around the world including Cuernavaca (Mexico), Nairobi (Kenya), Canberra (Australia), Bangkok (Thailand), Vancouver (Canada) and Athens (Greece), among others.

Climate Change Statement, entitled ‘Listen to Our Voices: The Future Needs Strong Vision and Leadership’, comes just four months before the critical climate talks that will take place in Copenhagen in December this year, and just four weeks ahead of a High-Level Summit on Climate Change convened by the UN Secretary-General at the end of September in New York City.

"This global Youth and Children gathering under the Seal the Deal! Campaign is the largest international gathering of young people this year advocating for climate change action. Their voices will and must be heard because they will inherit the outcomes of our actions," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The children and youth are asking governments around the world to:
  • - Agree on a more fair, just and action oriented post-Kyoto agreement adopted and implemented by all countries.
  • - Have strict laws and enforcement against those who pollute and degrade the environment, coupled with education and incentives to protect the environment
  • - Develop and implement clearly defined carbon action plans and climate response strategies, which can be monitored and reviewed by an independent multi-national climate facility
  • - Transition toward a green economy based on renewable energies and offer more incentives for people to buy affordable energy efficient products
  • - Reduce the number of vehicles and traffic density on our roads, including improved and affordable public and pedestrian transport systems
  • - Make engaging environmental education mandatory in schools and universities and promote community environmental awareness - an informed public is a powerful public
  • - Pay attention to the conflicts that have developed throughout the world and the negative impact it has had on the environment and develop conflict resolution strategies
  • - Make it mandatory to include carbon and ecological footprint information in products
  • - Implement green energy and industry, including sustainable food production
  • - Support youth efforts to make a change in the world
The young delegates at the conference pledged they would soon stage large rallies across 100 capitals to urge global leaders to take action as part of Global Climate Week under the banner of the Seal the Deal! campaign.

“In many ways this process of coming to an agreement on this final text mirrors what will take place in December in Copenhagen. This statement is the fruit of a diversity of views and voices from young people of different ages and cultures. We very much hope the spirit set by these young people will be reflected in the negotiations that will take place in December,” said Achim Steiner, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

World leaders, from President Barack Obama Chinese premier Wen Jia Bao will, over the coming days, receive a personal letter from representatives of the globe's three billion young people urging them to Seal a meaningful Deal on climate change in just over 100 days time.

“We are the generation of tomorrow. The decisions that are made today will define our future and the world we have to live in. So we young people of the world urge governments to commit to a strong post-Kyoto climate regime. It is our lives we are talking about,” said youth delegate, 23-year-old Anne Walraven from the Netherlands.

Joanna Benn is an information officer with UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)

For photos and graphics from the Tunza conference, please visit: http://www.unep.org/downloads/Daejeon_Conference/HighRes_Photos_Korea.zip

For more information on the Tunza conference, please visit: http://www.unep.org/tunza/Downloads/tabid/870/language/en-US/Default.aspx

The Tunza International Youth Conference was organized by UNEP with the support of the UNEP National Committee for Korea, the Daejeon Metropolitan Government, and Tunza global programme partner, Bayer AG, as well as UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, WMO, the World Organization of the Scout Movement, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and 350.org. Other private sector sponsors include Hyundai-Kia Automotive group and Samsung Engineering. Nickelodeon TV Asia is the media partner for the event.

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