Throughout COP21, I bumped into many amazing youth figures from all around the globe and found their stories really inspiring! Now, sit back, relax, and read their stories that I have personally picked for you all 🙂
This is Jacqui who won a scholarship from Global Voices, Australia to come to COP21. Global Voices is a youth leadership platform to provide Australian youth opportunities to attend local and international policy related forums. Jacqui aims to understand how UNFCCC negotiation systems and processes work, as well as to learn more about climate change and the people working on it around the world.
Prior to COP21, she was researching and studying the draft text of the Paris Agreement and understanding the history of the convention as it has evolved. She is particularly looking at the level of each parties’, or countries’, nationally determined contributions (NDC) and how they may be enforceable, if at all, through the ambition and compliance mechanism in the Paris Agreement. Jacqui is also interested in gender issues in climate change where she strongly believes that women have the capacity to be significant change-makers in addressing climate change challenges.
She shared that in Australia climate politics is complicated and is looking to see how her government will apply the Agreement back home. She is hoping to see the government improve their current NDC to set a higher and more ambitious target, as well as financing more climate change projects and initiatives. She also reflected that climate change is highly politicised in Australia, where many people, including the youth are aware of some issues but don’t really know what or how to act in response, despite the severe impacts Australia will face. She emphasised the importance of increasing education and communication to the youth and the broader community by focusing on the values and human stories of climate change.
Talking about her COP21 experience, Jacqui thinks that being bold and open minded as well as inquisitive and critical is a useful approach to participating in COP. In response to some of the ideas put forward at COP she said, “sometimes it seems that we have solutions but in fact, we might be creating more problems within the solutions.” She also thought that people need to keep looking beyond the COPs because the UNFCCC is not the universal solution for climate change and action needs to happen on the ground in our own communities.
Chris Hsiao, Taiwan- Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition (TWYCC)
Chris from Taiwan started to involved in climate change by joining TWYCC back in 2013. He is keen to join COP21 because that is the highest international decision-making body to combat global climate change issue; and he was hoping to leave an impact to the negotiation and make this a better agreement. Talking about his goal in COP21, Chris explained that he is particularly interested to understand how business sector is reacting towards climate change and how they involved their distinct stakeholder in this.
In addition, Chris is working on an interviewing project that aims to bring back stories of international youth as a source of inspiration to encourage more actions in Taiwan.
He have shared his new discovery in COP21 on how corporates showed concern on the formation of carbon pricing mechanism as well as their initiative on aggressively persuading their stakeholders to be part of the green commitment- which was not seen in Taiwan.
Also, Chris opinion after attending several actions in COP21 lead him to a realisation that actions is neither a form of protesting nor going against the government or the existing system. He sees this as a call from the people to ask for more solid and fundamental goals and that we all have to approach it by gaining collective ideas from around the world. That is why, actions always emphasized on solidarity.
Chris expressed his view on the Paris Agreement where he thinks this agreement is never expected to save the planet. In fact, it is just a guide. Thus, it is always touched to see how the climate movement is urging people to take action from different levels, because at the end of the day- we have to save ourselves, not by solely relying on the agreement.
Lisa McLaren, New Zealand- New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD)
Say Hi to Lisa from New Zealand Youth Delegation! Lisa is a Emergency Management Advisor back home. She had been to COP19 in Warsaw with the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.
This year, she was chosen as one of the co-convenors of the NZYD to guide and help the current delegates navigate around the COP21. Lisa explained that NZYD is a campaign team where their main goal was to engage people in NZ on climate change through both traditional and social media.
Prior to COP21, they did a nationally centred campaign for 4 months with a focus on asking the government to aim for carbon zero by 2050 as well as to create a plan to do this and develop a cross party working group for these issues to avoid the plans being interrupted by the political cycle. In COP21, NZYD campaigned heavily to get media back home showing the government’s’ misleading stance on climate change.
Lisa highlighted her experience at a side event about Fracking, where she learnt that many of the farmers were being affected by this form of extraction and it inspired her to learn more. She also valued hearing the first hand voice from the direct victims, like the farmers in this case. Lisa also shared about her biggest achievement in COP21 was NZYD getting New Zealand the first fossil of the day (tied with Belgium) because it managed to grab a lot of media attention and highlighted the government’s fossil fuel production subsidies.
Pui Cuifen, Singapore- Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA)
Cuifen is an environmental scientist with a not-for-profit (DHI) back in Singapore, and does a lot of ground-up community work focusing on earth-focused sustainable living and growing your own food movements. She and her team mates created Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) just before heading to COP21. The opportunity to attend COP21 came up 2 months before, when Cuifen was contacted by Lastrina who knew she carried out a climate perception survey in July as a ASEAN Power Shift policy delegate.
The COP21 journey was an experiential journey for Cuifen on what is being done at the policy level, and what the countries bring to the table. She followed the negotiations as best as she could, and felt thankful that other more experienced participants, such as Mel Low (from Singapore), were always ready to share their insights. She took the opportunity to reach out to the Singapore negotiators team, and managed to secure half hour of their time to have a honest dialogue with interested Singapore Observers at COP21.
Cuifen followed her passion in choosing side events, and focused on agroecology, protected areas, forests, REDD and indigenous people. She was thankful to see farmers being their own voice for the very first time, and the indigenous people given air time when they have something to say. She also got her team to start #PeopleofCOP21, an idea that came up on the bus after talking to a COP21 technician, who shared how his homeland is already affected by sea level rise.
Cuifen felt that at every stage of COP, there was a very real possibility that an agreement would not be reached. She is proud that her country ministers played a key role in differentiation, which was a sticking factor in the negotiations. Overall, the experience gave Cuifen hope, that no matter what happens, people will come together to make sure we get back on the right track. The only thing is time is not on our side, especially for vulnerable areas that already face impacts in their everyday lives.
Saffran Mihnar, Sri Lanka- Earth Lanka
Meet Saffran, a climate activist from Sri Lanka! He came to COP21 under Earth Lanka, a Sri Lankan environmental NGO that work on both journalism and community projects on local level to raise awareness. On a personal level, Saffran focused on the journalism part where he writes back to share his experience in COP21.
Among the events that he have attended, he was inspired by the collective efforts being done by the countries in Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) as showed in their pavilion event where he witnessed how different island countries are working hard to take measures and to come out with solutions. Saffran explained that more countries should learn from AOSIS on their collective spirit; by giving example of his concern on how Sri Lanka is facing a lot of difficulties especially their position in G77 & China grouping- where big countries were deemed to protect themselves more than the small countries like Sri Lanka which is more vulnerable.
Saffran was proud to mentioned that his article was being published on well known blog which he thinks is his biggest achievement in COP21. Regarding youth participation, he pointed out that the current youth involvement in Sri Lanka has to be improved a lot; and that the government should engage with youth more so that they understand about issues that government is facing. From his organisation level, Earth Lanka is planning to revive the youth parliament which is not functioning well after the new government took over.
Lastly, Saffran shared his own saying to end his interview with-
“Three things you need for the success of your life and to reach higher in the society:
- Follow your religion;
- The knowledge that you gain every single day; and
- Good Friends and Family in your life”
View Part 1 of the interview here
Interview done by: Emily Oi
p.s. I have wrote a tribute to my beloved interviewees too on how I got inspired by them and what I learnt from them. Check it out here!