DOHA, QATAR—Youth from across the world are demanding meaningful action to combat climate change, as representatives of nearly 200 governments are meeting at the COP18 conference on climate change. The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started in Doha today, November 26.
At nine o'clock in the morning, before the opening ceremony of the conference, just as negotiators and participants were entering the halls, a large group of young individuals from the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM), the Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) and SustainUS stood on the sides silently holding signs representing the dire consequences of climate change. AYCM, CYD and SustainUS are youth delegations from the Middle East, Canada and the United States respectively. The signs, written in multiple languages, read messages such as Floods, Droughts, and Desertification. At the bottom of each page was written the question, “Will This Be Your #ClimateLegacy?”
“The demonstration was intended to remind negotiators that the decisions they make at this conference, and over the next several years, will decide the kind of world today’s young people will grow up in,” according to the press release for the action.
An hour later, at the same time as the start of the plenary, the three groups held a press conference. Five young people described how their countries are affected by climate change and each told a story about facing those consequences.
“In 2007, when a cyclone hit us, it was so sudden and we never anticipated such a thing. Even when the alerts came two days before, no one really took it seriously...It was a real eye opener to many people,” said Sarah Al Harthy, a youth from Oman.
In the room there was a large display of a map of the world with red dots indicating the regions that are severely affected by climate change.
“Today we are talking about how climate impacts are already upon us. We are in a state of planetary emergency and we are not anymore just talking about abstract things,” said Jane Nurse, a youth from Grenada. “We need to have higher ambition, we need to get rid of the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry, and we really, really need to make deep cuts to keep our world to the two degree target.”
There is an overwhelming scientific agreement that greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2015 to have any chance of keeping the global temperature increase below two degrees. Already the current one degree increase is having devastating impacts, such as the droughts in the United States and Mexico.
This year’s negotiations are considered key in moving forward especially since 2012 marks the end of the Kyoto Protocol period. At last year’s negotiations in Durban, it was agreed that there will be a second commitment period, but many fear that it will not be a fair, ambitious and binding agreement that will indeed limit the emissions.
Crystel Hajjar is an Ottawa-based writer, organizer and climate justice activist.