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Warsaw Event Discusses Role of Youth in the Climate Process

intergenerational-inquiry14 November 2013: The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat organized a side event about intergenerational inquiry during the Warsaw Climate Change Conference.

Moderated by a representative from the California Student Sustainability Coalition, the panel was composed of representatives of NGOs and Youth Associations such as Young Friends of the Earth and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). The UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary and France's Climate Ambassador were also members of the panel.

Among the panelists, Nathan Niedermeier, Young Friends of the Earth Germany, stated that youth are interested to come not only to “fight against something, but to fight for something.” Given that decisions now taken influence the future of youth, he highlighted that youth are eager to attend the climate conferences.

Sylvia Yirenkyi, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), also expressed that youth are determined and stressed the value of “holding onto dreams” despite frustrations with international efforts to address the climate crisis. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, counseled youth delegates to focus on the long-term, remembering that changes take time. He recommended that youth focus their energies to challenge the governments of their home countries to improve their positions on the climate crisis.

Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, spoke to delegates from a personal perspective, explaining that her children were her primary motivation to dedicate her life's work to climate change. She agreed with the youth perspective that the climate negotiation process can be slow and frustrating, but concurred with Alhedawi's recommendation that youth challenge their national governments – and their peers – to focus on climate.

Progress has been made in youth inclusion and engagement at some national levels. According to Jacques Lapouge, Climate Ambassador, France, the French negotiation team has included youth in its delegation since the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

The discussion also noted issues such as: the need for space for youth engagement within the UNFCCC and related UN processes; recognition of youth delegates who lost their accreditation; the role of media; whether the two degree target for addressing climate change is sufficient; and recognition of “dreams and long-term visions” to address climate change. [IISD RS ENBOTS coverage of 'Intergenerational Inquiry'][IISD RS video coverage of the side event]