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Impassioned Youth Speak Out as Climate Change Negotiations Stall
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.
After a week of slow or nonexistent progress at COP17, SustainUS Youth were feeling frustrated. A briefing from Jonathon Pershing and Todd Stern last week ended with two members in tears as the US Special Envoys on Climate Change avoided confronting science and delivered only empty rhetoric. But after a night of depression we came back strong on Friday with a series of actions to deliver the message we traveled to Durban for. In order of sequence:
Delegate Abigail Borah interrupted the start of lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s speech to call out members of Congress for impeding global climate progress, delivering a passionate call for an urgent path towards a fair and binding climate treaty. Stern was about to speak to international ministers and high-level negotiators at the closing plenary of the Durban climate change negotiations. Borah was ejected from the talks shortly following her speech. She says her motivation was that U.S. negotiators “cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America”, highlighting that “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.” Her delivery was followed by applause from the entire plenary of leaders from around the world. Read about it in the New York Times.
Delegates Amanda Formica, Laura Fernandez, Adam Greenberg, Rina Kuusipalo, Marielle Remillard and I (with other youth from around the nation) participated in a demonstration outside the conference center in which we called our delegates over for a free eye exam. The idea was to highlight that a “2020 vision” (2020 is the year in which the US said we could have binding climate agreement) is unacceptable. The science is clear – our delegates need their long term vision checked!
SustainUS held our own press conference in the afternoon regarding both actions and stressing the urgency of the situation. Delegate Marielle Remillard started off with a summary of the slow negotiations, Ethan Case followed with the US domestic situation, and MJ Shiao closed us up by calling out Obama and Congress for failing to deliver. We also unveiled our US Youth video filmed at COP: “2020 is Too Late to Wait.”
After two weeks of lobbying delegates, the Chair of the Informal Group on Finance gave permission to YOUNGO’s Finance Working Group to speak briefly at the start of their meeting. I was elected as the speaker, and gave an impassioned plea to delegates from around the globe to put aside extremist ideas aside and compromise. “Please look all of us in the eye…and know that it is our future that you are arguing about funding.” It looks like this conference will end with a Green Climate Fund, but our group called for “Not just a fund – a Just Fund.” Take a listen to the 2nd half of the speech.