Intergenerational Equity as the Bridging Principle of Climate Negotiations

Several lobbying and action efforts from SustainUS in collaboration with YOUNGO has caused a current moral and potentially bridging principle known as “Intergenerational Equity” to gain traction and further its preliminary recognition at this year’s “Conference of the Parties 19.” On Tuesday, November 19th   two major events in the form of an outreach action and youth-led press conference served to increase advocacy and stimulate an in-depth dialogue on the principle’s current progression, respectively, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.

Early Tuesday morning, members of the United Nation’s official youth constituency held an action in the convention entrance area of Poland’s stadium to encourage country delegates to include Intergenerational Equity in their respective interventions, statements and overall negotiations.  The action served as a mechanism to provide a voice for youth and future generations, while simultaneously advocating the importance of youth representation in decision making processes concerning climate change. Approximately twenty (20) young people participated in the action, including SustainUS delegates Beatrice Yeung and Keisha Herbert, who both assisted with preparing materials and holding up a handmade bridge and signs stating “Intergenerational Equity.” The action was held for thirty minutes and delivered the message on how the principle can serve as the linking moral theme in addressing and moving forward with climate action goals now. What’s also notable is how all nations will have future generations inheriting the earth, regardless of their contributions to climate change. This inheritance inevitably comes with long term quandaries, yet the discussion on intergenerational equity has still not reached the same priority level as other issues at the forefront of the climate talks, due to it not being deemed as relevant to the present.

During an afternoon press conference, held the same day as the YOUNGO action,SustainUS delegate Timothy Damon served on a youth conducted panel, along with two other youth delegates and a moderator, to voice opinions, deliver statements, and address questions regarding the first week of COP 19 from a youth perspective. Timothy notably used the opportunity as a mechanism to highlight the SustainUS focus of “economical discounting” as it relates to SustainUS’ intergenerational equity campaign. Damon stated how equity is “arguably one of the fundamental principles of the convention” yet it has not been explicitly addressed from an intergenerational perspective.  He further explains how Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol discusses the importance of protecting the climate for the benefit of present and future generations, but it’s still a lost focal point for climate decisions.

Damon has also been highly instrumental and successful in lobbying negotiators to adopt the principle through a more ambitious stance, primarily as a means to build text for the 2015 Conference of the Parties in Paris, France. He stressed the need to look beyond a principle in terms of rather or not it sounds agreeable, but more so on “what does it mean in practice and what difference does it (or can it) make.”  Damon then discussed how to operationalize the principle of intergenerational equity by conducting climate change through economic modeling, which was the main subject of Timothy’s research for his Masters degree.  He then provided a definition on discounting relating to intergenerational equity stating, “Discounting is a practice in economic modeling where less weight is assigned to costs and benefits which happen in the future, as opposed to if they happen right now in the present.” Damon further added, how valuing the future is about fundamental moral principles and values, and should be decided on democratically. He hopes for a more engaging and informed debate for both negotiators and their respective publics back home to draw stronger attention to Intergenerational Equity to further policies on climate change.  Video coverage of Timothy’s perspectives on Intergenerational Equity in alignment with discounting can be viewed at the following link .

International consensus for intergenerational equity is still a major work in progress. The bumpy road towards the goal of having the principle stated in written text for the negotiations in Paris, France for 2015 is unclear, yet hopeful.  The steadfast and unwavering interest and dedication from youth worldwide demonstrates a clear belief in not only achieving written text about the principle, but its great potential for an actual implementation process as well. Youth involved in the talks on intergenerational equity truly value their future and those of generations to come. As a result, they are dedicated to progressive discussions and actions aimed towards influencing key decision makers as an outright stance of their refusal to be discounted.

Three Actions To Stand With The Philippines and Call for Action on Climate


I'm at the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw, and I need your help to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people. In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, we have an opportunity to take real action on climate change at the UN and and domestically in the US.

I ask everyone reading this blogpost to take three actions:

1) Sign the petition in support of the Philippines and real climate action at the UN:
Please sign this petition in support of the Philippines and Yeb Sano, the Filipino commissioner who gave a rousing speech on Monday calling for real action on climate change at the UN Climate Talks. See below for an excerpt from Yeb's speech:

Sign the petition here:

2) Join the solidarity #FastForTheClimate and donate to relief efforts for the Philippines:
Commissioner Sano has been on a #FastForTheClimate since Monday, committing himself to consume nothing but fluids until the end of COP19 on November 22.

have chosen to join in the solidarity fast during COP hours (~8 am - 10 pm), and five members of my SustainUS delegation are also fasting. People all around the world are also joining Yeb in a #FastForTheClimate. You can join the US facebook event here:

The Philippines also desperately need funding for relief efforts. There are many organizations collecting donations. I am particularly a fan of Doctors Without Borders, which is accepting donations on its website:

3) Call on the US to #ActOnClimate and Impose Ambitious EPA Carbon Regulations:
The US has a played a huge role historically in emitting greenhouse gases that drive climate disruption. To truly stand in solidarity with the Philippines, we must take action domestically to curb our carbon pollution and work to prevent a future where super storms become the new normal.

Given the reticence of Congress, the best way for the US to #ActOnClimate is via the EPA. With strong regulations on existing carbon emitters, we could reduce carbon emissions up to 26% below 2005 levels within the next decade. Weak regulations will fail to achieve President Obama’s Copenhagen commitment and could derail international climate talks—as the United States already did in the 1990s. Strong regulations, however, will surpass that commitment and could bolster international climate talks that might be the key to preventing catastrophic climate change.

Sign this petition to call on the EPA to impose strong rules on carbon emissions:

Thank you all for your support during COP19. In the words of Yeb Sano, together "We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now... can humanity rise to the occasion? I still believe we can."

SustainUS Calls for Real US Climate Leadership via Strong EPA Carbon Rules

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We are United States youth invested in an equitable and sustainable future. In 2008 and 2012, our generation was instrumental in electing President Obama. In the last five years he has failed to ambitiously lead on climate action. His climate legacy lies in jeopardy.

Every year, we see more examples of why strong climate policy is direly needed. Extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan are the new normal, and things will become much worse without substantial global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. To truly stand in solidarity with the victims of climate disruption, our country must take more ambitious steps to reduce its emissions.

President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a unique opportunity to lead on climate action by crafting aggressive carbon regulations for power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Due out in June, these regulations allow the Administration to bypass a dysfunctional Congress, leaving no excuse for inaction. Despite this easy avenue to cut emissions and combat climate change, the President has delayed issuance of these regulations numerous times.

Developing countries are leading on climate. India has instituted a carbon tax on coal, and Kazakhstan has crafted a national cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. China has initiated regional carbon prices and plans to expand to a national carbon price in 2016. These actions have eroded the U.S.’s long touted excuse for not signing onto an international climate treaty: the inaction of China. Developing countries are on a path to swiftly capture any claims of climate leadership from the United States.

All the while, the President has the ability to substantially reduce carbon emissions and take concrete strides against future climate change. Ambitious EPA action requires both lofty targets and for the EPA to incorporate flexibility into the pending carbon regulations for power plants. The flexibility may pose legal risks. This means that the Obama administration will have to spend substantial political capital to achieve aggressive reductions. If the EPA fails to craft aggressive carbon regulations, the result will be negligible or even zero reductions.

Weak regulations will fail to achieve President Obama’s Copenhagen commitment and can derail international climate talks, as the United States already did in the 1990s. Strong regulations, however, will surpass that commitment and send a positive signal to international climate talks. This is absolutely key to preventing catastrophic climate change. So we ask, President Obama: What will be your climate legacy?

SustainUS is a non-profit, nonpartisan, youth-led advocacy group in the United States. Through proactive education and advocacy at the policy-making level and at the grassroots, we are building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. We strive to reflect our values through the diversity of members and projects, our ongoing commitment to educating ourselves and others, and the way we live our lives. We seeks to work with the government and other activists to advance a shared vision of a livable future healthy planet.