Global youth call on UNFCCC head to cancel coal summit attendance

• November 8, 2013

Youth call on negotiators to put intergenerational equity on the table at the Bonn UNFCCC meeting in June 2013. Creative Commons: Sarah Marchildon, 2013

As the UN prepares to host its biggest climate conference of the year in Warsaw next week, it has run into trouble with its senior official being presented with an ultimatum by the official UN-recognized youth constituency.

In a bold move, the youth constituency (known as “YOUNGO”) presented Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres with an ultimatum: either to support the coal industry, or to support young people fighting for an alternative future.

Lucy Patterson, a coordinator for Push Europe, said:

We are calling on Ms. Figueres to pick and stick. Pick the future over the past. Pick clean energy over dirty fossil fuels. Pick and stick with young people all over the world who are fighting for a better future.

The strong statement was sent as part of a conditional invitation for YOUNGO’s annual pre-COP event (named ‘COY’, or the Conference of the Youth), usually attended by Figueres. From the youth invitation to Figueres:

It seems clear that this is a moment in which we all need to make a choice: either support youth and future generations or support the coal industry.

…Accordingly, we would like to respectfully invite you to attend our conference – but only if you do not attend the coal summit. We are asking you to make a simple choice: you either stand with future generations by joining us, or you stand with outdated dirty energy.

This year’s event, re-dubbed ‘Power Shift Central and Eastern Europe’ (PSCEE) is taking place this weekend in Warsaw. While young people meet to plan how to keep over 80% of this industry’s proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, it is feared that the World Coal Association will meet to do the opposite.

The invitation emphasized that the Executive Secretary would be welcome at this year’s youth event on the condition that she cancel her attendance at the World Coal Association’s international summit on 18 November, at which she plans to act as keynote speaker. Marta Sykut from Polish Youth Climate Network said:

The science has confirmed that we don’t have time to waste, and we also know that we must keep fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. This is why it is unacceptable that the top UN official on climate change should attend a summit aimed at promoting the role of coal in fighting climate change, a bizarre concept that has been put forward by the dirty industry lobby.

The constituency – made up of hundreds of non-governmental youth organisations from all over the world – unanimously decided that the Executive Secretary’s attendance at the coal summit was neither in line with the impartial role of the secretariat, nor would it be supportive of the core objective of the convention to avoid the dangerous impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Raquel Rosenberg Lessa, from the Brazilian Youth Delegation, said:

While climate change is already being felt all over the world, polluting companies are lobbying the United Nations boldly and directly, hijacking a process that was meant to be about solutions to the climate crisis. We are standing in solidarity with people already affected by climate change, and we are calling on Ms. Figueres to do the same, to recognize that there is no role for fossil fuels in a sustainable world.

Young people are increasingly concerned about the influence of the fossil fuel industry on the UNFCCC process, which they feel undermines the legitimacy, perceived and actual, of the process. Ms. Patterson said:

A UNFCCC presence at the WCA’s summit represents a conflict of interest, legitimizing this industry’s damaging input to the negotiations. It is also against the principle of impartiality of UN staff, and we are worried that it will set a dangerous precedent and open the door for the dirty industry to further influence decisions on climate change.

YOUNGO now await a response from the secretariat. Power Shift CEE will conclude on Sunday 10th November, ahead of the opening of COP19 in Warsaw.

Comments (2)

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  1. Gary says:

    What am I missing here? The UNFCCC have an important message to convey to the World Coal Association. If the WCA meet without a UNFCCC representative, then there is no such oppositional message, and so no motivation for the WCA members to change their ways. I do not understand how being a keynote speaker means that they support the WCA, nor that it legitimises “clean coal” technology. So the idea of issuing an ultimatum to the UN seems both poorly conceived and even self-defeating.

  2. GlobalGuv says:

    Yeah and who appointed these silly , priviledged, conference attending kids to represent half of humanity.

    I thought so . The self appointed structures of the UN.

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