Contrasting Cultures with Mutual Environmental Ambitions

Avatar Plan International
Member since March 17, 2015
  • 85 Posts
  • Age 25

In December 2015, governments will meet at the UNFCCC COP21, to conclude negotiations on a new international climate change agreement, to significantly decrease global greenhouse gas emissions. This is being seen as the “last chance” to control emissions, therefore Plan Youth Advisory Panels in Australia, Norway, Germany and The Philippines and Indonesia are working together to advocate for young people’s voices to be heard in the agreement.

Imogen from Australia:

My name is Imogen, I am 21 and I am one of Plan Australia’s eleven Youth Ambassadors. I grew up in rural Australia and have always been interested in the relationship between people and the natural environment. When Plan Australia offered one Youth Ambassador the opportunity to travel to the Philippines with their Climate Change Adaptation Program Manager to visit Plan’s projects, I jumped at the chance! I applied and was stoked when I found out they selected me to go.

At the beginning of this year, Plan Australia’s Youth Ambassadors gathered together to talk about the issues which have the greatest impact on young people globally in 2015. We realised that one of the biggest issues for young people at the moment, and in the future, is climate change, and committed to take action on climate change. We decided to do this through putting together a report which would give a voice to Australian youth and youth in developing countries, to demand that the Australian government, and the governments of the world at COP21, make meaningful commitments to act on climate change.

This report was the incentive for my travel to the Philippines. My role in the Philippines was to conduct consultations with the children and young people participating in Plan’s Climate Change Adaptation Projects. The aim of the consultations was to learn about the children’s experiences of climate change, what they are doing to take action on climate change within their schools and communities, and what they want the Australian government and other governments of developed countries to do about climate change.

What the Philippines trip found?

In all of the consultations and interviews I did with children and young people in the Philippines, I heard over and over again personal experiences of the effects of a changing climate. Each child had, in some way, been directly and adversely affected by climate change, regardless of their age. This struck home that the effects of climate change are being felt right now, and that it is the children and young people in developing countries who are most vulnerable.

Climate change is not an issue which exists only in the minds of scientists and the far-off future – it is real and it is happening now. The children and young people I met in the Philippines know this. They are educated about climate change – how it is caused and its effects. More importantly, they are taking action. Many of those I listened to are part of a youth group helping to maintain the resilience of their community’s natural environment through planting trees and mangroves and organising waste management activities such as recycling. They are also raising awareness about the effects of climate change and educating their community on how to mitigate the effects, through youth-led radio programs, dance shows and theatre, as well as speaking directly to their parents, peers and community leaders. They want the Australian government, and the governments of other developed nations, to take action to mitigate climate change, because developed nations are the ones in a position to make significant change to limit carbon pollution and to invest in renewable energy.

My reflections since returning home

I feel very grateful that I was given the opportunity to travel to the Philippines and make a significant contribution to the report that Plan Australia and my fellow Youth Ambassadors have put together in the lead up to COP21 in December. The Philippines is a naturally beautiful country, and whilst I was amazed by this, I was also deeply saddened by the unfairness of the difference in living conditions, between this country and my own. I think that when people hear the words ‘developing country’, they often think of starving children drinking dirty water and wearing ragged clothing. I don’t think that people would often think of children who are worldly, intelligent, articulate, funny, passionate, shy, and outspoken. The children in the Philippines were like this and I am in awe of how empowered they are. They were so willing to learn and share their knowledge through raising awareness and taking action on issues that are important to them. Through being with them, I felt empowered in that it was possible for me, too, to make a contribution and a difference.

During one consultation, conducted on the beach under the shade of a tree, I was asked a question: “What do young people in Australia do about climate change? What are YOU doing about climate change?” I had expected to be asked a question like this and it had happened in a few previous consultations, but this time it really made me think. The national environmental groups for young people in Australia that raise awareness of climate change issues, do fundraising, run campaigns, and challenge political decisions, but, on an individual and small-scale community level, how much are we actually doing? On the beach, I was challenged to reflect on what I can do in my own life and what I could do within my own small community to mitigate the effects of climate change. Back in Australia, I am still challenged to reflect on how I can change my own every-day, and the communities I come into contact with, to be more environmentally friendly.

What Do Australia’s Young People Want?

A desire for the world’s governments to take more persuasive action was expressed by many of the young Australians who participated in the consultations conducted for the report across the nation. We are growing increasingly aware that the world we will inherit will be strikingly dissimilar from the world we were born into. Australian youth are environmentally aware, politically aware, globally aware and ready for something to be done. We want our government to lead the world on environmentally sustainable change through divesting in fossil fuels immediately and investing in renewable energy now! We also want our government to boost its support of developing nations through increasing international aid and making significant contributions to the Green Climate Fund. It is unfair that the effects of climate change are felt most by already vulnerable nations when it is our own country that contributes most to the problem.

What next for the Australian youth team? How can other young people get involved?

Plan Australia’s Youth Ambassador Group, Plan for Change, will be continuing to raise awareness on climate change and demand meaningful commitments on reducing Australia’s carbon-footprint from the Australian government in the lead up to COP21. We hope to get more young people engaged with what we’re doing through our social media page, Plan for Change on Facebook, and there are plans to get more youth directly involved with Plan Australia next year through an expansion of our Plan for Change group, but there is more to be heard on that yet!

#2065yourfuture - promotes the need for today's young people around the world to tackle climate change and take responsibility for the world they want to see in 50 years’ time. You can be a part of #2065yourfuture and have your voice heard by:

· Take a photo holding a poster explaining the actions you are taking to stop climate change? Or what you want people and governments in Australia and Europe to do to stop climate change? Then upload on social media using #2065yourfuture.

· Join the Chain Video.

· Drawing, painting or taking a photo of a tree as symbol of protecting the environment.

· Joining a Google-Hangout in November ahead of the event.

This is a Global Voice for Change blog - find more here.

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