COP20 Climate Talks Seek Input From Youth (VIDEO)

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Intergen meeting at COP20 (Aly Johnson-Kurts)
Intergen meeting at COP20 (Aly Johnson-Kurts)

Discussions, workshops, and seminars carried on all day Thursday at the UNFCCC’s COP20 climate change convention in Lima. The main stage belonged to youth, however, as participants celebrated Young and Future Generations Day. It’s part of the UN’s human rights effort to include all affected groups in two-way climate communications, rather than dealing solely with traditional hierarchies of government representatives, heads-of-household, or military participants.

Climate change will impact our youngest and yet unborn the hardest. Acknowledging this, and in keeping with the UN’s inclusive tradition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon initiated a Youth Climate Action program at September’s New York Climate Summit. The program has several goals: to inspire, empower, and mobilize young people around the world; to support and reinforce youth participation; and to increase the visibility of youth and their activities for adults who may have laid aside the practical and idealistic concerns of their earlier days. It’s refreshing to see grownups viewing teenagers as something more than cannon fodder.

Aly Johnson-Kurts and friend fasting for climate (A. Jonhnson Kurts)
Aly Johnson-Kurts and friend fasting for climate (A. Jonhnson Kurts)

Youth delegates from around the world planned and held an interactive event at around lunchtime on the role and importance of young people in the UNFCCC process. One of the most committed is a young blogger from Vermont and sophomore at Smith College named Aly Johnson-Kurts who’s here with a group from SustainUS. She has been engaged in the entirely youth-organized Intergenerational Equity “Inteq” program. Aly describes its mission:

At its basis Inteq is the principle that the future should be valued the same as the present, otherwise our decisions will be shortsighted and sacrifice the future. One example [is] how inteq applies to forest management. When you value the future less than you value the present, there is an incentive to chop down all the world’s forests and sell the wood. When the future is valued the same as the present, there is an incentive to maintain sustainable forests that produce lumber every year and continue to prosper.

The “social discount rate” is the number that represents how much we value the present in relation to the future. A discount rate of 0% is ideal—where the future is valued the same as the present and there is an incentive to maintain the prosperity of the world’s resources for future generations.

Aly and her compadres have hit the ground running with Inteq meetings several times a day, taking part in a sunup to sundown #FastForTheClimate campaign, making banners for an art space, working with a youth NGO and research NGO, developing some policy with two delegates from New Zealand and the Netherlands… and attending quite a few official events on the side. Inteq decided earlier in the week to adopt two major action plans for youth at COP20:

  1. Pressing for a 0% social discount rate to guarantee that the future is valued at the same level as the present.
  2. Advocating 0% fossil fuel energy usage by 2050 in order to maintain the integrity of the atmosphere and global temperature for future generations. The best older people have managed to come up with so far is near-zero by 2100.

In the final week of the conference, Aly and her fellows will have a chance to interact with high-level representatives from both the COP/CMP parties and the observer organizations.

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