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Tips for climate activists—how to get your message across

Saadia Iqbal's picture

Last night I attended a panel discussion called, “A Fair Financial Deal for Climate Change?” The panel was made up of senior climate change experts, who discussed the issue of financing to help developing countries tackle climate change, as the world prepares for COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico.

While panelists were only cautiously optimistic about the world reaching a fair global deal this time, they did say the meeting itself is important. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh said that UNFCCC is the only place where the poor and vulnerable have a set at the table, and for that reason alone it’s worth keeping as a process.

However, Alex MacGillivray, the director of AccountAbility said that it’s “too late for a fair deal for some people in the world.” For example, those dependent on coral reefs for fishery or tourism, will not have a livelihood in about 10 years’ time. Did you know that about one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds under serious threat? Fairness isn’t just about money, MacGillivray pointed out. “Some people are un-compensatable.”

Well, getting to the part that’s most relevant for you guys, during the question/answer session, Bernadette Fischler of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts asked a great question. She asked the panelists to provide tips for the youth constituency at COP 16, given that they came away rather disappointed last year, and felt their voice had not been heard.

Here’s some advice from Andrew Dlugolecki, independent advisor to the UNEP Finance Initiative: “Fear tactics are not working. Try to identify the children of all negotiators and work on them! One of the reasons I’m still working on this is because I’m a grandparent.”

Not a bad idea, eh? Find the kids and get them to take the message back to their parents. Camilla Toulmin of the International Institute for Environment and Development took this a step further, saying youth should work on politicians, and “involve the young generation of people involved in negotiations. People in power need to hear a very strong message.” She also said young people need to get angry. “We’re not seeing the level of anger we should.”

Not sure I agree with this last point. Personally, I don’t think anger is a very constructive emotion. Sure, it’s good to be passionate or motivated. But that’s different from being angry. What do you guys think?

Alex Macgillivray added that according to polls, young people aren’t engaged as deeply on this issue as older people. Now that’s strange, given that the young generation will inherit all the challenges of climate change. Could the polls be misleading? What do you think? Are you and your peers concerned about climate change? Concerned enough to want to do something about it?

Whether you’re planning on attending COP 16 or not, what are your ideas for making the youth voice heard this time?

Photo: Denmarkdotdk / Creative Commons