5 Reasons to Send Youth to Climate Negotiations

Kate Catlin, a native of the Seattle area, has been selected as a member of the United States Youth Delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011. A junior at Gonzaga University pursuing a B.S. in Economics, Kate is currently in Nicaragua interning with Soluciones Comunitarias. She will be providing updates about her experience as a youth delegate on this blog.


During a community event with a local philanthropy group, one member asked me, “Why exactly should we send young people to an international summit like this?”

It’s a fair question. Why pay for a bunch of 20-somethings to fly around the world for the next UN Conference of the Parties concerning Climate Change? Compared to other attending NGOs, we have years less experience in UN negotiations and bureaucracy. We are just another group of youth idealists — right?

These distinguishing features are exactly why we are so essential.

  1. The SustainUS delegation suffers from none of the jaded attitude of veteran participants.
  2. We have no need to avoid stepping on international toes to prevent provocation concerning other international issues.
  3. We maintain an unbridled enthusiasm and for optimism for the future.
  4. Most importantly, we put a human face to the need for sincere efforts towards stronger mitigation. After all, we are the ones who must survive the consequences.
  5. Moreover, these youth are by no means ignorant.
    • Agents of Change Coordinator Ming-Jay Shiao is currently a Solar Analyst at Greentech Media Research, focusing on US photovoltaic demand and global inverter markets.
    • Social Media Director Katherine Rainone is an Account Representative at Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey, a non-profit fundraising and marketing consultancy and a simultaneous Master’s Candidate in Environmental Planning and Management at Johns Hopkins University.
    • SustainUS Chair Ellie Johnston is a project coordinator for Berkshire Publishing’s Encyclopedia of Sustainability and the International Review of Sustainability in Business and Law.

Motivations for attending 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC are equally diverse:

  • Delegate Amanda Formica is in her second year of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at Miriam´s Kitchen in Washington, DC. As she works to provide services to the homeless and the destitute, she can see the effects of environmental policy on a daily basis: “Rising fuel costs, health effects of poor food, proximity to coal power plants and more are all unfair burdens on people who are poor.¨
  • Marielle Remillard, head of the delegation’s Policy Working Group, found her passion for climate issues while working on the North Slope of Alaska. She says ¨I had originally gone to work as an engineer analyzing stream conditions and weather patterns. What I found were communities that were being washed into the ocean¨

The delegates range from 20 to 26 in age and Stow, OH to Quito, Ecuador in hometowns. While our variety of perspectives has lead to extensive chain emails debating policy positions, they are also what make us strong. Read each biography here. Next week is the last pre-conference blog post so check back for policy and preparation updates. Until then– stay green!

Find out what National Wildlife Federation is doing to combat climate change.

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Published: November 17, 2011