The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), now held in Paris until December 11, is a crucial conference in a process dating back more than 20 years. Indeed, it has a massive task ahead: to achieve a new binding international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries.
The objective of this agreement is both very simple in its wording and extremely difficult. Keeping global warming below 2Ai??C becomes a more and more difficult challenge as years go by. Adding global inequalities between countries and a widespread short-term political vision make the Paris conference agreement a challenge of which many doubt the ambition.
If France has affirmed its will to play a leading role to ensure points of view converge to a unanimous consensus needed by the United Nations, the COP21 might need a stronger push in order to be a success.
Thatai??i??s the role civil society organisations hope to play. Remembering the Copenhagen COP in 2009, civil society has been preparing for Paris since last year for its strongest ever rally in climate change negotiation history. Two huge demonstrations were scheduled beforehand (29th November) and afterwards (12th December) to make sure negotiators donai??i??t forget to whom they are accountable, even when working behind closed doors: the people.
However, after the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, these demonstrations were cancelled.
In any case, young generations have an important role to play. For 10 years they have been pushing to contribute to the negotiation process, organising before each COP a Conference of Youth (COY) aiming to raise awareness, training young people on climate change issues, and creating a youth position to be spread during the COP.
This yearai??i??s COY is no exception to the rule. Nevertheless, the organisers have decided to change a few rules to make the event the start of a momentum up to the final hurdle.
Itai??i??s no news that climate change does not affect everyone in the same way, and social inequalities do have a role in that. Also, if environmental civil society organisations have historically been rather lonely in advocating for more action to prevent and reduce climate change, it is simplistic to see climate change issues only from an environmental point of view. In fact, these issues tend to be cross-sectorial, since they call for a global shift in our ways of living, working, consuming, being educated, and so on.
Taking this into account, the COY organisers, the WARN! movement, the REFEDD (The French Network of Students for Sustainable Development), CliMates, Avenir Climatique and the French Scout Federation, have decided to broaden the concept.
This year, young people gathered in Villepinte (next to Le Bourget where the COP21 takes place), from November 26th to the 28th, three days leading up to the COP. This event was festive, with a long-term mobilising goal in order to create an international community of young people striving for a more desirable and sustainable way of life. The event both informed and mobilised young people, raised and showcased existing solutions and connected participants in a fun atmosphere.
With the COY event, local COYs in other countries were organised to rally even more young people all around the world. If they could not come to the COY, the COY came to them!
More and more young people are trying to shift the paradigm in which we live to start building a desirable future for everyone regardless of their social background or the place that they live. Understanding the cross-sectorial nature of what is at stake, believing in social and climate justice and fighting climate change with alternatives and positivism, this is the recipe to a new kind of activism of which young people are torch-bearers, for real!