Open Letter to the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC: Conditional Invitation to Attend Powershift Ce

From: YOUNGO – The constituency of youth non-governmental organisations under the UNFCCC

To: Ms. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

8 November 2013

Dear Ms. Figueres

We write to invite you to attend Powershift Central and Eastern Europe – our invitation taking into account, however, our concerns regarding your engagement to speak at the World Coal Association’s international summit this year.

As you know, we as youth organise our own convergence ahead of the Conference of the Parties every year.  Previously, we called it the Conference of Youth and we welcomed you to come and share your input, advice and support.  We have appreciated and enjoyed your past attendance.

We would like to invite you to attend once again.  This year, we have decided to call the event Powershift Central and Eastern Europe, and your team have recently told us you are looking forward to attending. We would love you to join us on Sunday 10 November 2013 at Nowy Fort (StefanaCzarnieckiego 51, 01-541, Warsaw).

However, it is with deeply held concerns that we ask you to attend Powershift Central and Eastern Europe this year, as it disappointed us greatly to hear that you will also speak at the World Coal Association’s international summit.  Powershift Central and Eastern Europe is a space for young people to convene and determine how we can demand a safe and just future.  This youthful spirit of change is not, in our view, compatible with you speaking at the World Coal Association’s summit because:

1.    The coal industry is one of the most carbon intensive in the world and it is also responsible for other dangerous pollutants in our air, soil, and water. Recently, the coal industry rebranded the same dirty energy as ‘clean coal’, but without seriously addressing its environmental cost.  While we youth are meeting to talk about the hard work we all need to do to keep over two thirds of this industry’s proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the World Coal Association is meeting to do the opposite. The World Coal Association’s international summit aims to have a direct influence over the outcome of COP 19, and so to strengthen the dangerous role of fossil fuel energy in the UNFCCC negotiations.

2.    It is our view – and will no doubt be the view of many within the media, and civil society – that the presence of a UNFCCC official (not least the Executive Secretary) at such an event represents a serious conflict of interest and critically undermines the legitimacy, perceived and actual, of the entire the UNFCCC process. We as youth do not accept the coal industry’s attempts to influence the global climate negotiations, to attack the bases of climate science, and to brand ‘clean coal’ as a viable mitigation solution. The World Coal Association’s goals are clearly contrary to the UNFCCC’s core objective to avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change.

It is for these reasons we are gravely concerned that you will not only attend the World Coal Association’s international summit, but will also be a keynote speaker.

Moreover, we note with concern that your presence may not be in accordance with the impartial role with which the UNFCCC secretariat is legally bound under the Staff Regulations of the United Nations and Staff Rules (2002), in particular regulation 1.2 (a), (b), (f), (h).  In 2004 the secretariat was warned by the SBI on its role as an impartial actor (after the Executive Director attended an international energy conference to endorse renewable energy) when it formally “took note of the concern expressed that officials of the secretariat should take care in their public statements to reflect the views of parties held by consensus, and not to appear to support only one side or another on contentious issues.”  Clean coal is an extremely contentious issue amongst the member parties as well as civil society.  We fear that, regardless of your words at the conference, your presence imbues political recognition and legitimacy to the proponents of this unproven and controversial energy source.  We are certain that certain member states will echo this sentiment. Accordingly we would like to caution you that attending this summit is neither in line with the impartial role of the secretariat, nor is it an activity that is supportive of the core objective of the convention to avoid the dangerous impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

In the past, you have been an inspiring presence at the Conference of Youth. We appreciate the time we spend with you but are concerned about the stark contrast between the sustainable and just future we are trying to build, and the climate catastrophe the coal industry would have us worsen. It seems clear that this is a moment in which we all need to make a choice: either support youth and future generations or support the coal industry.

You have passionately urged us to strengthen our messages and actions, to get angry, and to stay creative. We are doing so.

Accordingly, we would like to respectfully invite you to attend our conference – but only if you do not attend the coal summit. We are asking you to make a simple choice: you either stand with future generations by joining us, or you stand with outdated dirty energy.  The latest climate science has confirmed that most coal reserves are ‘unburnable’ if the world’s leaders are to keep the – already insufficient – promises they have made under the UNFCCC.

We trust that you will give our invitation due consideration. We look forward to receiving your RSVP and confirmation that you will not be speaking at the World Coal Association summit.

Yours sincerely,

YOUNGO The constituency of youth non-governmental organisations under the UNFCCC

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