I am extremely passionate about finding positive solutions to end climate change. I believe it is the most important issue facing the world today, and if left untouched, its effects will be felt by absolutely everyone on the planet. I was incredibly interested in the United Nations Climate Summit because I truly believe that the key to reversing climate change is large-scale action and policy changes, and the Climate Summit was to focus on exactly that. I was honored to receive a nomination and invitation to attend the UN Climate Summit on behalf of Plan International because I was among 49 other Civil Society representatives, all of whom were older than I am and had established careers in combating climate change. Of the fifty civil society representatives, I was honored to be the youngest.
While at the Summit, I attended a thematic discussion on Climate Science. The panelists in this discussion included Thomas Stocker, a Swiss climate scientist, Julia Marton-Lefevre of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Aleqa Hammond, the Premier of Greenland. Attending the discussion was John P. Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, who incidentally played a role in the creation of my local Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. This discussion focused on the role of climate science in policy decisions, and how climate science must be a topic in which virtually everyone is well-versed in order to create climate action. The next thematic discussion I attended was titled Voices from the Climate Frontlines, which included moderator and British TV personality Femi Oke, and panelists President Evo Morales of Bolivia, Mary Robinson of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, and former human rights lawyer and current NBC News Anchor Ronan Farrow. Also on the panel were the three women who escorted me through the summit while I was there: Sylvia Atugonza Kapello, Head of the Riamiriam Civil Society Network in Karamoja, Uganda, Alina Saba, Researcher and Community Organizer for the Mugal Indigenous Women’s Upliftment Institute/Asia Pacific Forum on Women in Nepal, Law and Development, and Christina Ora, Youth Activist, Pacific Youth Council in the Solomon Islands. This discussion focused on climate change as a social justice issue and how it disproportionately affects people in developing nations who lack the resources or infrastructure needed to prepare for and combat climate change and associated natural disasters. I was especially moved and inspired by this discussion because I realized that to address climate change is not just to address the physical effects, but also the injustices, prejudices, and disadvantages faced by many groups of people throughout the world in order to give everyone a chance to face climate change and help to reverse it.
I was the only youth representative chosen to attend the UN Climate Summit through the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), but there were ten other youth representatives chosen to attend the summit through other organizations. I had the privilege of interacting with these youth, all of whom are incredibly bright, motivated, and passionate about climate change and other global issues. I felt very empowered by the fact that I, as a young person, am not alone in my passion for finding solutions to combat climate change. Having youth voices participate in international discussions on climate change is pivotal and crucial to the climate change movement because though the young generation did not create climate change, it is we who are faced with the challenge of reversing it so that we and future generations may live prosperous lives on this beautiful Earth.
After the summit, I contacted a number of climate activists, politicians, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon to ask if they would like to contribute to a presentation I was giving at the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. I received word first from Bill McKibben, who is an environmentalist and founder of 350.org. Bill McKibben personally recorded a video of himself emphasizing the importance of youth activism in climate change, and voicing his longing to be in the beautiful Tupper Lake, where the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit is held. I also received word from Ban Ki-Moon, who sent a wonderful quote that I included in my presentation:
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time — a growing threat but also a compelling opportunity to put our world on a more sustainable path. Climate impacts are growing; so is the cost of inaction. Our future security and well-being depend on climate action today. I applaud the steps that young people throughout the world are taking to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their environmental awareness. The energy that they are dedicating to combating climate change will benefit the world for generations to come. I will continue pressing world leaders to reach a meaningful climate agreement in Paris next year. Economists have spoken; science has spoken; people are taking to the streets; it is time for leaders to act. Please raise your voices and tell your elected representatives and community leaders that you want climate action, now! Thank you for your hard work and commitment.”
These were incredible responses from very well-known and inspiring individuals in the climate movement, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am also very grateful and honored to have been a part of such an amazing internationally recognized event as the United Nations Climate Summit and I hope that I can utilize what I gained not only to educate others, but to one day create policies to help end climate change.
Links to thematic discussions:
Climate Science: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/08/climate-science/
Voices from the Climate Front lines: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/08/voices-climate-front-lines/
Link to my presentation at the ADK Youth Climate Summit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEJqsI9LD-4&feature=share