As youth delegates from SustainUS, we work to represent the youth of the US climate justice movement within the United Nations' debates on climate change. In this capacity, we travel to the UN climate change negotiations every year. There, we aim to make change both in the outcome text of the negotiations and in the media narrative surrounding international climate policy. This December, we will attend COP20 in Lima, Peru, and we’re already full of ideas for what we’d like to see. Ask any one of us and we can tell you what we’re hoping for on a personal level. Our list of demands in these negotiations is as diverse as our personal backgrounds, the immediate needs of our communities, and our hopes for a more just, sustainable shared future.
But every year, progress is slow, and watching the ideas you care about called into question again and again is discouraging. And when the negotiations completely fall apart, like they did at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, it can be utterly heartbreaking. Whether you’re in the talks or watching media coverage back home, watching your home country’s negotiators often produces the same reaction: How could they do something like this?
The answer to that question is one of the reasons the People’s Climate March matters. There’s nothing wrong with the individual people representing the United States in the room at COP. They aren’t evil people, or climate deniers seeking to actively undermine the talks. They’re decent human beings just trying to do their jobs. They’re trapped in a world of severe political constraints, because everything they agree to in the context of the UN must be something that can survive back in the United States. That’s the sticking point. For the vast majority of US politicians, climate change is, at best, an issue to be avoided, and at worst, something to deny to win quick political points.
But there’s a misunderstanding on their part. The people who represent you, at the UN and in Congress, think you don’t care about climate change. And until US politicians truly believe their constituents care about climate change, the US will remain unambitious in UN talks. Continuing the current state of affairs means more precious time is passing without international action on one of the most critical issues of our time. Every day that goes by with politicians believing that their constituents don’t care how they act on climate means another day negotiators are bound by a lack of political will when they travel to COP. Without a change, political gridlock will continue to prevent US leadership on climate change.
This is why the People’s Climate March is so important. Action at the UN will not happen without outside pressure. Americans, and especially youth, who will feel the impacts of climate change more acutely than any other generation before us, must apply that pressure. We must demonstrate our commitment to this issue, and build a broader stronger movement than ever before to call for climate justice and a better world.
Come to New York and show the people who represent you how much you care about acting on climate change. Members of Congress, State Department officials, and President Obama: By the time we’re done marching, they will not doubt what we value, or question how strong our convictions are. Come if you are able, follow the March on social media, and tell your friends and family. The impacts could be global.
Emily Nosse-Leirer is leading the SustainUS delegation to COP20. You can follow the delegation at @SustainUSAgents and sustainus.org, and find her at @EmilyRNL.
There are so many challenges in the world, how do you pick one to focus your energies on? For SustainUS Lead Now Fellow Amira Odeh the answer was straightforward after a professor prompted her and classmates to research disposable bottled water waste and Amira was reminded of the devastating drought that Puerto Rico faced in the mid-nineties. Learn more about what she has done from there...
Thanks to all of the SustainUS members who voted on the latest amendment to our bylaws! The amendment passed, increasing the leadership opportunities available to youth. To recap what this means, any youth 29 and under is now eligible to run for the Steering Committee and any youth 18 and older is now eligible to run for the Board of Directors. We are excited to be able to extend a wider range of engagement to all of our members. Please note that this change will not affect program participation age requirements for Agents of Change delegations, Citizen Science applicants, or Lead Now Fellows.
Over the past months, SustainUS has been actively involved in the post-2015 discussions at the United Nations Headquarters. The Post-2015 Development Agenda is an UN process that is seeking to develop the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new set of goals that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. The process was a significant outcome for the Rio+20 Conference.
Even though the MDGs provided a set of development goals that rallied the international community behind a shared understanding of poverty eradication, development experts recognized the need for a more holistic development agenda. The MDGs overemphasized economic poverty and gave limited attention to the structural cases of poverty, population dynamics, or sustainable development. Moreover, the historical and economic context in which the MDGs were anchored has changed and it becomes vital to find a new set of development goals that reflect the challenges of today’s world.
In Sandy’s Wake, NJ Town Environmental Coordinator Journeys To UN Climate Summit Looking For Answers.
When Amanda Nesheiwat stood before the Secaucus, New Jersey Town Council last week the Assemblymen had two questions for their enthusiastic 23-year-old environmental coordinator. First, could she help them understand the relationship between climate change and the horrific storm that had just devastated much of their town? And second, what could she tell them about her upcoming trip to the Middle East?