SustainUS holds a Side Event with the Republic of Ecuador

According to a research conducted by United Nations, over the last two decades, the number of recorded natural disasters has doubled from approximately 200 to over 400 per year. Nine out of every ten of these disasters have been climate related. You never truly believe or know the exact meaning of something unless you see it and get involved. For me, from my previous perspective, I thought Pacific Ocean should be as pacific as its name indicated. Thanks to the opportunity provided by SustainUS, I got a chance to get involved in climate change dialogue, I got to know the heartbreaking facts of global warming, especially in Small Islands Developing States (SIDS)——those who contributed the least to this unprecedented crisis are suffering the most cruel punishment revenged by the nature.

In responding to the inaction of those who caused the climate crisis but refuse to take the responsibility to solve, 800 members of civil society walked out of the talks in COP19 today. The Parties, notably US, Japan, Australia, and Canada, badly influenced by a massive fossil fuel lobby, are making the negotiations worse enough, their inconsistency on the commitment of adaptation fund and carbon cuts are costing lives, as they applauding themselves in the conference center, the Philippines are still counting losses from Typhoon Haiyan which hit the islands several days before. The nature has alarmed us, the impact of climate change isn't something that awaits in a far-off, distant future, they're happening now. As long as we know how serious a problem climate change has become, we will understand there is no time to wait.

Tonight at 8pm, SustainUS held a side event in COP19 together with The Republic of Ecuador. As the co-coordinator of this side event with Ecuador government, I honorably worked together with the government over the last five months, and with the help of Andrew Spiteri, we worked out the side event titled of “Net Avoided Emissions: A Concrete Solution to Address Climate Change in Small Islands Development States and Other Developing Countries.” This dialogue took place today in Conference Room Torun, Ecuador government addressed the Net Avoided Emissions Initiative, which is a way that could help developing countries to develop without contributing to the furtherance of climate change. Following this, I presented my research paper, Small Islands, Vast Oceans and Shared Challenges: Linkage between South-North-South on Climate Change, which aims to promote cooperation between South and North on technology transfer and best practice exchanges. Our other respected panelists in the panel have made three clear points about adaptation on climate change, they are:

  • Efforts should be made to encourage creation and implementation of adaptation funds in LDCs and SIDS.
  • Efforts should be made to establish international climate risk insurance to address losses and damages caused by nature disasters. 
  • Funding must prioritize projects in LCDs and SIDS due to their heightened to the effects of climate change,

However, as a cross-border issue, climate change are turning into an “epidemic.” There is still a long way to go, we expect there will be more efficient dialogues in future, because compared to the tremendous nature, time is not on our side; we need to increase ambition in every track of possible negotiations, not for the game between the great powers, but for our survival in a rapidly changing world.

With infinite amounts of respect,

SustainUS holds press conference calling for strong EPA action

SustainUS delegate Ryan Madden's press conference remarks about EPA regulations:

My name is Ryan Madden, a member of the SustainUS youth delegation from the United States. I have chosen to fast over the past 10 days to join Philippines commissioner Yeb Saño in standing in solidarity with the people of the Philippines and to remind my community and my country of the human cost of inaction on climate change. The United States has a significant opportunity to lead on climate and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I am here to ask my fellow Americans to urge the EPA to craft ambitious climate regulations that significantly reduce carbon pollution and put our country on the path to a clean energy future.

The EPA has a unique opportunity to lead on climate action by crafting aggressive carbon emission regulations for existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Due out in June, these regulations allow the EPA to bypass a dysfunctional Congress that has refused to adequately respond to the urgency of climate change.

In designing these regulations, the Agency has substantial discretion. Strong regulations will reduce carbon emissions from existing plants upward of 26% below 2005 levels, by the end of the decade. By implementing ambitious regulations, the EPA can help address the root cause of climate-intensified disasters and reduce the future impacts of such calamities.

The U.S's long-touted excuse for not signing onto an international climate treaty has been eroded by developing countries that are leading on climate action. India has instituted a carbon tax on coal, and Kazakhstan has crafted a national cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. Developing countries are on a path to swiftly capture any claims of climate leadership from the United States.

Action on a domestic level determines international outcomes at the UNFCCC. Weak EPA power plant regulations will fail to achieve President Obama's Copenhagen carbon reduction commitments and could derail international climate talks, as happened in the 1990s when the U.S. backed out of the Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, strong regulations would ensure the U.S. surpasses Obama’s Copenhagen commitments and would demonstrate strong American leadership on climate. The fate of the Paris 2015 climate talks could be determined by the decisions the EPA makes in the coming months.

I urge American citizens to call for ambitious EPA carbon regulations. I call for this not as an angry young man, but as a youth weary of the future. I cannot wake up tomorrow morning and craft policy, but the civil servants at the Environmental Protection Agency can. To those civil servants: do not forgot what is at stake with your decisions. Do not forget the victims of Hurricane Katrina, superstorm Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan. Now is the time to take real action on climate.

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.