The Cracow room of Warsaw’s stadium quickly filled up in anticipation of the intergenerational inquiry earlier today.
The youth delegates at COP19 have felt their voices silenced all week and were prepared to ask the tough questions of the panel. There was a current of electricity in the air while waiting for the panel to begin, which consisted of 2 youth delegates, representing the global North+under-18s and the global South+over-18s; Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth; Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC; and French ambassador for climate change Jacques Lapouge.
The meeting began with an anti-Fossil fuel flashmob organized by the Brazilian youth delegation with participants from all over the world, including 2 of our UCOS delegates. This set the mood for the inquiry, which had impassioned speeches from the youth delegates & serious questions from the audience.
Nathan Niedermeier, representing the under-18s at the conference, started off the panel’s discussion with a moving speech which was continuously greeted with applause. He asked the questions many in the room were wondering, such as why under-18s are restricted from attending the COP for over 3 days and when the 3 youth who had their accreditation taken away earlier in the week would be re-accredited. He was well-spoken and didn’t back down when his questions weren’t answered.
Christiana Figueres’s speech was met with mixed emotions. There were boos and scoffing during her remarks which ultimately resulted in a mass walkout when she could not or would not say when the #warsaw3 would be allowed back in. When responding to a question about why so many NGOs and youth delegations had their badge allocations drastically cut 1 month before the COP, she made the mistake of comparing NGOs to business constituencies, stating the businesses were just as upset. This caused an uproar among many present. Her remarks about the young generation’s responsibility in combating climate change seemed to place blame on the youth. This was later clarified during the Q and A, but still left some youth frustrated. The mass walkout occurred after repeated questions about the 3 youth who had been de-badged. Ms. Figueres, who was in the middle of her answer on the topic, remarked simply that the exodus was “fine” and continued with her answer. Among the people who remained in the room, the general consensus seemed to be that it was a disrespectful and immature. Ultimately, since the argument has been about strengthening the youth’s voice, it was upsetting to see such an opportunity be rejected.
Learn more about the objective of the Brazilian flashmob here: http://www.climaxbr.org/
Mary Katharine Phillips