by J. Taj Schottland
The youth have been broadcasting a couple core messages here in Copenhagen. I’d like to catch you up on what those messages have been and what they mean.
My favorite youth message comes in the form of a question. “How old will you be in 2050?” The youth have posed this question repeatedly to anyone who will listen, especially the media and high-level negotiating officials. The question has even permeated the depths of the UNFCCC bureaucratic process, as was evident when Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs talks on long-term action, walked into our youth briefing wearing a bright blue t-shirt with this slogan printed on it. But what is this question meant to accomplish? It is meant raise awareness that COP 15 negotiators, and the politicians they represent, won’t be around in 2050 to witness the climate disaster they helped sow. But the youth of today will be there. We will pay a dear price for the current inactions of world governments. For this reason we need significant emission reduction targets for the near future, not just distant 2050 targets.
Richard van Kampen (left), Noah Hodgetts (center) and Taj Schottland (right) at December 12 demonstration in Copenhagen.
I’d also like to interpret this question in another way. Yes it is true, the negotiators can’t be held accountable in 2050, but there will be people who can and will be held accountable. That’s us. Yep, the youth at COP 15 will be held responsible for what happens. The future generations will look back and judge us. They will know there were thousands of us here. They will know we had the capability of making real change. But will they look back and see that we stepped up and flexed our muscles? Or will they see we did a half-hearted job? We have to pull out all the stops and do whatever is necessary to make our voice heard. The stakes are too high for failure, and the youth are the best chance—perhaps the only chance—for bringing about a good outcome in Copenhagen.
Our second slogan is “survival is not negotiable.” People often loose sight that we are negotiating our survival. When countries negotiate finance, technology transfer and other policy “wonky” subjects, what they are actually negotiating is our survival. Is that really something we are willing compromise on? It’s as simple as that. Countries have lost sight of the big picture. Everyone has the right to life, as recognized by simple moral imperatives and by countless international human rights declarations and treaties. We understand that climate change, if left unchecked, will cause innumerable human deaths. We must stop bickering, stop negotiating our survival, and address the issue as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.