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Getting young people heard at U.N. climate talks

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 8 Dec 2011 12:30 GMT
Author: Cat Hudson
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By Cat Hudson, U.N. Youth Delegation

It’s official: Chris Huhne and I could be best friends for life. We first met a few weeks ago in London – at a Youth Climate Question Time debate at the UK Foreign Office. I was ridiculously nervous as I presented Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with the results of my youth green campaign, One Step.

But, within five minutes, I’d warmed up and was taking him to task on his commitment to our planet. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask him to promise to meet me in Durban. To my surprise, he agreed!

Thankfully, he turned up. My people had been in touch with his people for weeks, making sure the slot was kept on the calendar. 

I’m a green campaigner, and I’m absolutely passionate about the positive differences young people can make to climate change. I’m at the U.N. climate summit to represent young people’s voices as part of the U.N. Youth Delegation, YOUNGO, and as a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC).

For this second meeting with Huhne, I brought some friends along from the UKYCC.  The first job was getting Chris into some appropriate attire: Out with the politician gear and in with the “I love KP” (Kyoto Protocol) tie. If you don’t wear it, you can’t share it. 

Then we got down to business. As you can tell from the outfits, the Kyoto Protocol was at the top of our minds. We wanted to know what the UK government thought about the future of Kyoto and committing countries to reducing greenhouse gases. 

Chris assured us that he is all for the Kyoto Protocol, but a version that includes a roadmap to a global deal. He supports the EU’s idea of creating a second commitment period, but he wants a plan in ink showing how other countries will come into the treaty by 2015. 


He was really optimistic about the potential of the talks in Durban, saying there are signs of flexibility from countries like China. I told him how important it is to take on board the views of young people, as we are really willing to take steps to promote and support KP. 

Next, we wanted to get young people onto the VIP guest list at the COP meetings. Why are there not official youth delegates from the UK? Chris said he was open to the idea. 

And when we asked why young people are not included when civil society organisations, like big charities and NGOs, give briefings to policy makers, Chris told us to get in touch with the organisations and ask!   

Another issue that’s close to my heart is the Green Climate Fund – the fund designed to help developing countries tackle climate change. Huhne and his team stressed that they are dedicated to accountability and also proving that the money makes a difference. 

They want to do more to show how the projects, supported by the Green Climate Fund, actually change people’s lives, because this is the way to get British tax payers and the media on board. 

I told him about the need to engage children and young people in making the world a greener place. On Monday, I attended a special session run by Plan International on reducing the risk of disasters like floods and earthquakes, by including and working with children. The key point to come out was that change cannot happen unless the future generation is involved. The planet needs us!   

All in all, it wasn’t a bad meeting! If I survive the whirlwind which is my first COP, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for another. How about we start working on my dream - a 100 percent carbon neutral UK?

Cat Hudson is 19 and comes from Liverpool in the UK.

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