In the summer of 2004, youth leaders representing 16 clean energy organizations formed a coalition, Energy Action, which united and strengthened the youth clean energy movement. Energy Action, an Earth Island project since 2005, was a significant presence at the UN Climate Negotiations in Montreal, Canada, where leaders from 190 countries, 140 of which are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, gathered in November and December 2005.
In the days prior to the negotiations, a Youth Summit sponsored by the Canadian government brought together more than 80 youth from 25 countries to develop a Youth Declaration. The summit was a microcosm of the international climate negotiations themselves, complete with difficulties of overall representation conflicting with individual priorities. Ultimately, the youths were able to move forward and codify the International Youth Declaration that was adopted, in part, by the International Mayor’s Conference. The Declaration called for emission reductions of 30 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050, based on 1990 levels. Mayors across the world declared their cities’ intent to achieve the ambitious yet feasible targets.
During the negotiations, the youth movement was instrumental in creating an energetic, forward-thinking atmosphere, which ultimately led to a moderately positive outcome for the first official meeting of members of the Kyoto Protocol. States, cities, businesses, grassroots organizations, and youth were recognized for their combined efforts to compensate for national inaction.
“We came organized, were strategic, and ultimately were effective,” said Billy Parish, coordinator of Energy Action.
The effectiveness of the youth constituency resulted from months of strategic planning and a tightly coordinated effort during the conference. Throughout the conference, attention was paid to establishing a consistent, effective youth message for the media and delegates. The strategic media campaign resulted in numerous local and national pieces, including an article in the New York Times.
Daily Youth Coordination meetings served as the hub for the activists’ efforts – special presentations, updates, and established working groups helped to organize outreach efforts in media, lobbying, a daily newsletter, and a blog, www.itsgettinghotinhere.org. Over 40 international youth leaders in Montreal used the blog to share analyses of meetings and other events. The blog contained details of many of the daily skits that encouraged official delegates to take action, pictures, video, and podcasts from the heart of the negotiations. Most importantly, the blog encouraged dialogue among the thousands of readers from around the world.
Young activists also collaborated with numerous groups to organize the Climate Justice Convergence Center. The Center was established as an alternative to the Palais de Congres where the UN Negotiations were being held. The space served as a forum for those who were misrepresented, underrepresented, or simply not represented at the negotiations. The Center served as a temporary headquarters for youth groups, providing them computer access, dorm rooms, free meals, and a space where individuals discuss the disproportionate effect of climate change on marginalized groups.
Groundwork was also laid for a permanent Youth Delegation to future climate negotiations. Its establishment would provide increased credibility to an already effective group and ensure representation at future conferences regardless of location.
“Youth are taking the lead all over the country to reduce the impact we have on climate change,” Parish said. “It was our future on the negotiation table in Montreal, and we were heard loud and clear.”
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