Throughout COP21, I bumped into many amazing youth from all around the globe and found their stories really inspiring!
Emma Lewins, United Kingdom- United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC)
Emma is currently working for her local council back in the United Kingdom. She joined UKYCC since February 2015 and work under the team that focuses on understanding and following national climate related policies. This COP21 opportunity came at a surprise when there was a last minute vacancy from UKYCC and thus she decided to grab the chance. As Emma didn’t have access to the COP21 Blue Zone, she thus decided to help her teammates who were on the inside (of COP21) to connect with other people out there and be part of the climate movement. For instance, she had recently attended the ‘Red Lines’ protest in Paris where she was so touched and cried (happy tears) because she felt incredible to be with so many different people all united for the same cause!
She shared that this year, UKYCC asked hundreds of young people to complete postcards before they left for Paris to show the negotiators what the youth of the UK were most concerned about climate change. In this initiative, Emma thinks her involvement in getting 30 students to draw postcards was her biggest achievement in COP21. Besides, she also attended talks at the Climate Action Zone, including a great talk from Indigenous Women from around the world; where she found the connection between gender and climate fascinating.
Aside from COP21, Emma explained how climate change affects her country- where flooding is happening more frequently. Unfortunately, the UK government cut a lot of funding for flood defences in the past few years, and not much was seemed being done. Emma also raised the issue of historic responsibility in climate change is explained poorly in the UK. In addition, the local media framed Paris Agreement as a total success which to her, was frustrating. She also believes that UK youth are engaged in climate change, but not in the COP process and that more should be done on this.
Renee Juliene M. Karunungan, The Philippines- Dakila
Renee is a communications director and climate campaigner for an organization in the Philippines called Dakila. Dakila is a group of artists and young people that uses creative platforms for its advocacies. Renee also have been writing as a freelance journalist on climate issues and the negotiations in local and international media, feel free to follow her reneekarunungan.com. This year, she joined the climate tracker program in COP21 to track the negotiations and to interact with the Philippines national delegation.
She learnt that one can be effective in influencing public and policy by writing; and she was able to write two articles a day- which she think is a milestone for her. With the climate tracker program team, they also managed to do a lot of text analysis and info graphics every time a new text came out.
Renee thinks that the overall youth participation in COP needs to be improved by more engagement in the negotiations than just via actions outside of the negotiations. She also added on that Filipino youths involvement in COP is quite limited. She thinks that more Filipino youths should be engaged and it should be started from the national level. Nevertheless, Renee is proud of her country’s performance in COP21 where The Phillipines led the Climate Vulnerable Forum which pushed for 1.5 degree celcius and fought hard for human rights.
Bindu Bhandari, Nepal- CLIMATES
Meet Bindu from Nepal! She is a youth eco- campaigner under CLIMATES and Tunza Eco- generation, specifically working for youth sensitization in climate change. This is her first time in COP21 and she is here to learn about how negotiation works and to understand what exactly an observer does in COP. She have chosen to track negotiations focusing on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Loss and Damage (L&D) which is more applicable to Nepal as an agricultural country.
She pointed out Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in climate change, where the people depend on rain-fed agriculture system, thus intense drought and unpredictable high rainfall has serious effect in overall economy of the country. Moreover, as Nepal is a land of several high range mountains including highest Mount Everest; glacier melting has become a serious concern. Of all these, she appreciates the Nepal government initiatives by supporting REDD+ and is a member of UN REDD program. This approach aims to empower local communities with funding and capacity building for conserving existing forests and fostering community forests.
Regarding youth participation in Nepal, Bindu explains that although there is an appreciative attitude in participation among the urban youth in Nepal; however, participation is still lacking when it comes to climate change movements in villages and sub-urban areas. Bindu feels that the Nepalese government should include youth in the national delegation so that the youth can feel that they are part of it as well as enhance exposure to really understand the happenings in COP. She also thinks that it is more effective for the youth to engage and lobby their respective national negotiators or ministers compare to meeting up them back in respective countries.
Kristina Yasuda, Japan- Climate Youth Japan (CYJ)
Kristina Yasuda from Climate Youth Japan (CYJ) shared that COP21 was her first COP and she felt very lucky to be here as Japan is very strict on giving out accreditations. As the only representative from CYJ in COP21 for the first week, she fully utilised this opportunity to attend different types of side events, workshops and of course observing the negotiations.
Among the side events, Kristina found the initiatives done by private sectors to combat climate change very inspiring. As an example, there was an event that talked about hundreds of banks from around the world form alliance not to fund companies with high carbon footprint. She also raised her concern on gender equity in climate change where she saw that women are still marginalised. Thus, she hope to see more equal representation of both gender in the future, especially in Japan itself.
Through following the negotiations, she was very surprised to find out at how similar the negotiations actually are as compared to the debates in colleges. It was however a bit saddening to see Japan being not influential enough in the negotiations. She also thinks that youth involvement and participation in Japan is not sufficient which definitely need more work on it- to mobilise the government as well as to engage with universities who provide accreditations.
Kristina thinks that her biggest achievement in COP21 was to be able of positioning herself in an active international youth network. She explained that previously she stopped volunteering in environmental activities due to the lack of activeness in volunteering culture in Japan. However, meeting youth from different parts of world inspired her to return and she thinks COP21 further enhanced her motivation. She was also happy to see how her social updates being recognised and acknowledged by people and she feel that was essential because not everyone can go to blue zone!
Qin Yuanyuan, China- China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN)
Yuan Yuan is a member of China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN)- COP Youth Delegation. CYCAN have been working on the “low-carbon campus” project back in China for years which conducts carbon accounting investigations on campus and coming up with effective solutions to reduce carbon emission. In COP21, Yuan Yuan aims to stretch out for more people and knowledge relevant to tackling climate change in various fields. She is keen to learn and witness the negotiation process, as well as to interact with people inside COP to understand their concerns’ on this issue.
In COP21, she had the chance to be part of the presenter in a press conference to issue ‘Sino-U.S. Youth Declaration on Climate Change’ with members from Sierra Student Coalition and it was recorded by UN press! Besides that, she managed to attend side events organised by Climate Strike or Climates that were held to unite young people around the world to articulate their concerns and demonstrate their efforts. She found these events were very encouraging and promising.
When it comes to youth participation in COP21, Yuan Yuan had her say on it- she personally believe that the overall youth participation has to be enhanced and enlarged, including youth participation back in China. In COP21, youths don’t get enough discourse rights in the conference, especially in the decision-making area; where she self-experienced it and it struck her hard. She thinks that the current existing platforms such as YOUNGO could be regarded as informational channels, yet still need space for improvement. To mobilise on this, she thinks that joint project is a way to engage more youths and exerting youth power in the process.
**View Part 2 of the interview here 🙂
Interview done by: Emily
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!