Yesterday, a range of side events, exhibitions and actions marked the Young and Future Generations Day at the COP. There are an estimated 1.8 billion people aged between 10 and 24 years on this planet, and they are the fastest growing demographic in many countries. As this generation has only been on this planet for a few years, they have contributed only little to the greenhouse gas emissions which are driving climate change – yet it is their future which will be most affected by its environmental and economic consequences. In many ways, young people have the highest stakes in #COP21 and the #YFGDay drew attention to both their activism and their demands.
There was no lack of photo-ops throughout #YFGDay. For instance, young people all over the conference grounds “dropped dead” at 3pm exactly. This “die-in” was an effective visual reminder of the fact that climate change will affect young people everywhere in the world.
But what is the real impact that young people have in Paris? UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres met with Young and Future Generations representatives at a 30 min briefing and also gave a speech at the official opening ceremony of #YFGDay. However, she left after having taken pictures with 15-year old key note speaker and climate change activist Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. After Figueres left Anjali Appadurai, a young leader, gave a statement criticizing her departure, and the room cheered. She inquired where the real physical space for young people was to meet decision makers and lobby their case, and how the voice of the youth could be heard when statements had been restricted to two minutes.
COP21 is a political process, so access to political power matters. It makes me hopeful to see that young people demand this access and have a vision on how to use it constructively.
– Henrike Schulte to Bühne