Today was a day full of action and energy. I began the day by taking part in an action where youth called out fossil fuel companies. Today was Young and Future Generations Day but also, ironically, Business Day. There were tons of actions related to natural (unnatural, really) gas, fracking, and fossil fuels in general, as well as youth creating a space for their stance. I attended the Youth Open Dialogue session where I had the honor of sitting in a round table with Patricia Espinoza, the UNFCCC President. It was incredible to be in that space with so many other powerful young people, but at the same time it made me question the age tokenism that I have been feeling and seeing a little around here lately.
The three questions that were asked of her and their answers were:
1) How can youth impact the UNFCCC process more?
President Espinoza said the thing we must keep in mind is the realities of our respective countries and the tangible work we are all doing to change that. Because the realities are so diverse, it’s hard to say one or two things that all youth can do. However, she said overarching themes of awareness and education are key. Growing awareness inside government and also inside civil society will spur action and change. She also touched on the fact that the culture needs to be a part of it, and I totally agree. I think in the last week, I have felt a youth engagement culture like no other that represents the globe and the energy we all have for this issue.
2) How can youth continue improving the conversation about engagement?
President Espinoza said to use the YOUNGO liaisons, and she will always make time for us. While I’m unsure if this is true or not, or how much this will affect greater UNFCCC processes, it felt good to hear from a person in her position that at least ideologically she is with us.
3) How can we make youth a greater part of this process?
President Espinoza talked about engaging youth on issues and creating culture around the movement. She also advised talking to negotiators from our countries but also from other countries and sharing experiences and opinions.
I also was a part of an indigenous youth action today about decolonizing the climate movement, and the presence (or lack thereof) of indigenous people at the UNFCCC. It was a very powerful space to be a part of and to intentionally only be a part of physically. All of the non-indigenous folks put tape over their mouths that said “DECOLONISE” on them. While standing in a circle, a mic was passed around. Only indigenous folks spoke into the mic, stating their indigenous youth demands. When non-indigenous folks received the mic they passed it, symbolizing a passing of the mic to the perspectives that aren’t present in the UNFCCC. This was really powerful for me as I thought about the climate justice that I work towards and about where and when indigenous voices are not present. If these voices are not honored, present, or valued, then it is not justice.
It’s interested coming from COY, because I know so many of the youth here. It’s obvious so many of them are doing different things, and it’s interesting what it can look like with all of us navigating the COP space. For some folks who are super involved in YOUNGO, that looks like policy, meetings, and what seems like a future in the UNFCCC. For others that means late nights in the art space (which I discovered last night), actions, and grassroots work. This is the value of the climate movement, and this is the only way we can accomplish our goals.
I’ve attached videos from the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, the actions (with amazing stories from SustainUs and Sunrise folks), and the art space.