Empowering. Inspiring. Acting. COY8

Cressie, second from right, with other youth delegates at the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen in 2009.Cressie, second from right, with other youth delegates at the Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen in 2009. © Unicef/NYHQ2009-2183/Pires

The atmosphere here at COY8, the 8th Conference of Youth, exudes passion, commitment, energy and determination: young people from across the globe, north and south, developing and developed nations are meeting in Doha, Qatar, all with the common cause of working together to tackle climate change. Young people are being empowered. I feel empowered. We, as young people, are part of the solution to climate change.

I have met so many amazing fellow delegates, like Reuben Makomere, 25, a law student living in Kenya: “We are and will be the most affected by climate change. We are the largest demographic. This is an opportunity for us to make change. I want to be part of message, to convey the voice of young people in Kenya, Africa, around the world.”

This morning, Sophia and I ran a workshop entitled, “A crash course, for beginners, on the UNFCCC, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. By informing young people we are empowered and can make our voices heard. During the workshop we covered many of the acronyms related to the UN negotiations, something which I found initially, difficult; if you don’t know that COP18 stands for the 18th Conference of the Parties, it is hard to feel confident about what is going on. It is vital that we, as young people, have a voice: we will be the most affected byclimate change, but we also can help implement the solutions to climate change on a local, national and international level.

During the workshop we went through why we are here: primarily because of the urgency of climate change, time is running out and the window in which we can act to slow the effects of global warming is fast closing. Climate change induces more extreme weather patterns, so droughts, floods and other “natural” disasters increase in frequency and severity: the most vulnerable members of global society, particularly women and children in the southern hemisphere are disproportionately affected. Thus it is crucial that we, as young people, maintain and build the pressure on our negotiators to push for an ambitious second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. We also explained how YOUNGO (the youth constituency of the UN) works: as a constituency, which is a group of people who share a common interest, it has a horizontal structure, everyone has a voice and it operates through a network of working groups, focusing on issues such as adaptation, mitigation, communication, women and gender.

There are so many informative and engaging workshops going on where young people are sharing their incredible wealth of expertise with one another. The presence of the AYCM, Arab Youth Climate Movement, is also so inspiring and building increasing momentum. COY enables young people to empower themselves so that we are able to have the maximum impact upon the COP negotiations and many actions are being planned for the start of COP. We are determined to make the message loud and clear to negotiators that we, as young people, care. We are calling for an agreement with ambitious and equitable emissions targets, implemented by a strong mechanism that holds countries accountable and there must be common accounting.

The time for young people to be listened to is now.

Cressie Mawdesley-Thomas is a former young climate ambassador for Unicef UK

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