In 2015, world leaders gathered to devise the Paris climate agreement, a historic deal uniting the world’s nations to tackle climate change within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Two years later, 25,000 world leaders, ministers, NGOs, private sector and civil society descended for two weeks on the quaint German town of Bonn for COP23, to further facilitate dialogue and negotiate the technical operations of the Paris Agreement.
One Young World (OYW) Ambassadors Daisy Kendrick (Ocean Generation, Founder & CEO) and Luca Bucken (Liter of Light, Partnerships Director) were on the ground and share four key takeaways from their attendance at the summit.
1. Progress has been made but time is running out
Although faced with criticism, the Conference of Parties (COP) remains important to maintain climate action on the priority agenda of governments, private sector and civil society.
The Bonn discussions made considerable progress by advancing the coalition-building around the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius target, launching the Ocean Pathway Partnership to address the relationship between climate change and the ocean, and initiating the Gender Action Plan, the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, and the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, among the rest.
However, several disappointing setbacks raised a question mark behind the success of COP23. Developed countries have so far only pledged a little over US$10 billion of the US$100 billion/year in climate finance promised under the Paris Agreement for developing countries by 2020. Least Developed Countries and civil society representatives voiced their profound frustration that a sense of urgency is lacking on the side of key decision makers. Similarly, 15,000 scientists repeated a warning to humanity that not nearly enough is being done to address climate change and soon won't be able to reverse its fate. They warn that if the world doesn't act soon, there be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery.
2. Talanoa & building consensus through discussion
For the very first time, the 23rd summit presidency was held by a country facing the existential threat of climate change, i.e. the small island developing state of Fiji. Despite being hosted in Germany, the spirit of Fiji was entwined in all aspects of the summit.
The concept of Talanoa, a Fijian term meaning building consensus through discussions, embodied the spirit of COP23 and its mission to bring all parties and sectors together to address climate change. Without being biased, Fiji ensured the voices of small island people were heard loud and clear.
3. Young people need more seats at the table, not just access to the room
Over the past years, political and civil youth leadership in climate action has gained momentum and the UNFCCC and national governments have opened opportunities for the global youth to engage at COP (i.e. through the YOUNGO Youth Constituency). However, we find ourselves at a crucial moment where as young leaders we must not mistake access with influence. It is imperative for us not to be blindsided by being offered advisory roles or speaking opportunities, but to critically evaluate the influence and impact of our actions. The government delegation of Sweden positively stood out in this sense by including a Youth Delegate for COP23, Kajsa Fernström-Nåtby, who attended every single negotiation meeting, equivalent to all other ministers and personnel from the delegation, and had the freedom of input where she saw fit. We hope that more governments will follow this great example.
4. The US is more isolated than ever, as resistance is rising
The first day of COP started with Syria announcing its decision to join the Paris Agreement, leaving the US internationally isolated as the only country in the world not to support the efforts of the international community to combat the threat of climate change. Since Trump’s withdrawal from the Agreement only takes effect in 2020, the administration was still present with a small delegation. The delegation’s presence and behavior was viewed by many other government and civil society representatives as obstructive to the progress of the talks and led to calls to exclude the delegation.
However, Trump’s withdrawal also caused an unparalleled wave of support for the Paris Agreement for concerned American citizens, with over 130 million Americans pooling together to champion #WEARESTILLIN, and leaders of the movement built the Climate Action Center.
Timoci Naulusala, a 12-year-old from Fiji, opened COP23 with the words: "The sea is swallowing villages, eating away at shorelines, withering crops. Relocation of people…cries over lost loved ones, dying of hunger and thirst…you may think it will only affect small nations…you are wrong."
Whatever field and organisation you work in - from gender equality to extremism, from corporation to local NGO - climate action will affect you and the work you do in your communities. We need you. We need your action. Now.
Daisy Kendrick, One Young World Ambassador, is the CEO and Founder of Ocean Generation, a global collective bringing the ocean and its importance to the most connected generation in history through music, mobile gaming and digital platforms.
Luca Bucken, One Young World Ambassador, is the Partnerships Director of Liter of Light, a global movement training off-grid communities how to build DIY solar lights in 30 countries reaching 950,000 households.