Youth Delegate’s Reflections on COP21 in Paris

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Member since March 17, 2015
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  • Age 25

Written by Bjorn from Germany, Marinel from the Philippines and Anna and Karoline from Norway

In December 2015, governments met 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 were advocating for young people’s voices to be heard in the agreement and youth delegates from Norway, Germany and the Philippines were invited to attend.

What are COY11 and COP21?

The COY11 is the Conference of Youth where young people from all around the world gather to learn about Climate Change and share their own experiences with one another. Its purpose is to present the youth voice before the COP in the hope to influence government decisions.

The COP21 is the Conference of Parties. Leaders from different countries gather to negotiate and come up with an agreement to combat Climate Change. Its aim is to achieve a universal and legally binding agreement regarding the global efforts to combat Climate Change and to keep the global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

What did we do while we were there?

During the COY11, we’ve planned and conducted a workshop. Our workshop was focused on presenting Plan International as a child rights organisation and informing the audience about our own campaigns which we, as youth, carry out with the help of Plan International.

On multiple occasions Marinel shared her unique perspective of the effects of Climate Change and its hazards, more specifically the issues they experience in the Philippines right now. She also talked about the actions that they’ve already taken to combat the effects of Climate Change. To find out more read here blog here.

We’ve also participated in the COP21 simulation which was a simulation of the negotiations and it helped to broaden our minds on what possible results the COP may have.

During our time in Paris, we also talked to people from different delegations and frequently used the opportunities given to us to share our experiences and raise youth’s voices for example through giving speeches and interviews.

Together with youth from UNICEF, World Vision and Save the Children we planned and ran another workshop at COP21, where we presented the campaign #2065yourfuture. Marinel’s story was once again a highlight of this event and deeply touched the hearts of everyone in the room.

For the time we spent in Paris we also had a stall at COP21 where we discussed the issue of climate change with all kinds of people and informed the public, journalists, politicians and other NGO leaders about Plan International and our campaigns. Visitors to our stall were invited to leave a photo statement where they wrote something that they do in their everyday life to combat Climate Change on a chalk board. We photographed them and posted the pictures on twitter with the #2065yourfuture.

Finally we also presented our demands and recommendations for the negotiations to the decision makers and made sure that the youth’s voice is being heard.

Who did you met?

One highlights of our journey was being able to meet other youth delegates from all around the world. This also includes members of UNICEF, World Vision and Save the children with whom we held a workshop together.

We also met people from KyotoUSA who are working on building renewable energy in communities. As well as staff from NORDESTA who are more focused on education on the environment and reforestation. The founder said “to save the birds, she saves the forest”.

We’ve also met with a delegation from Myanmar and Vietnam and some indigenous people and Filipinos including Kuya Yeb Sano. There were also pilgrims of People’s Pilgrimage from Rome to Paris.

We were also very fortunate to meet Nicolas Hulot and Segolene Royal, the French Minister for the Environment.

What have you learned?

We’ve learned on how to talk and share experiences with different people from different backgrounds and in a workshop at Plan France we also learned about how to properly answer questions asked by journalists. On several occasions we were able to learn about different kinds of campaigns that other youths are facilitating as well as having deeper understanding of science behind Climate Change.

During our meeting with the delegation from Myanmar we heard about all the issues that their people will face in the near future and what they are already facing. Through our conversation with them, we’ve learned about their issues regarding political change, climate change and economic issues and also their rich natural resources that need protection.

The events also helped us understand that Climate Change does not just affect people but also animals and biodiversity in varying degrees.

The message that I won’t really forget from the COP is, “The world is made for everyone not just for the rich.”

Our reflections on the outcome

It is amazing that 186 countries have agreed on one agreement that they all are committed to. The world cooperating for a peaceful earth is powerful, the agreement and all the hard work and care put into it, is wonderful in itself.

When it comes to the actual agreement it does seem like the different countries have to go through major changes and complicated plans to reach their ambitious goals. The goals themselves are great, they mostly evolve around cutting emissions really fast, but it is the process from start to end that will be the most interesting to watch and see if really goes as planned.

However we are worried that the deadline we have to reach the goals are too soon, taking into perspective all the drastic changes that has to be done, especially in countries in the west where they nearly live on the income from fossil fuels. But it is also necessary to cut emissions so soon to lower the global temperature.

At least, they have made an agreement and this is just the start, the world now have a cooperation where they can together help each other to reach the goal, and gather and make new solutions if that will be needed, which is extremely important. For us to reach these goals, we all need to work together, harder than ever before.

What are the next steps and how can young people get involved?

We believe that the youth can do great things based on our evolving capacities. I think our next step here is to send the message around the world about climate change. As climate change already affects our way of life, it is right that people should be sensitized about it, not just in the countries who are already affected, but in all countries because climate change should be everyone’s concern. Young people can get involved by leading climate change actions in their own communities. “We must think globally but act locally” as what has been said in our film, ‘The Girl and the Typhoon’.

The German Youth Advisory Panel will continue taking action against climate change, building on the success of our chain video. We also will work for more youth involvement on all levels of the decision making processes. In Norway’s URO, we will keep working with environment and making others, especially youth aware on what needs to be done. We will have the same work methods as before; arrange stunts, write on our blog, write articles in papers, have conferences and challenges on social media, all evolving around environment, though we also have other focus areas, to continue focusing on the importance of the consequences of global warming.

Young people can also support us by tweeting statements about what they do in their everyday life to combat climate change using #2065yourfuture. Additionally, we also want to encourage everyone to come up with their own campaigns which they can implement together with friends / families and organizations or local authorities.

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