Youth is engaged at COP23

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The 13th Conference Of Youth (COY13) took place before the opening of COP23 in Bonn from November 2 to 4. This meeting brought together international organizations and associations of young people engaged in climate action. It is part of the International Youth Climate Movement, which holds and directs climate actions organized by youth. YOUNGO is one of 9 civil society groups represented in the UNFCCC and has been accredited  as an observer member since 2009.

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I was at the YOUNGO meeting this morning, where young people from all over the world gathered with the bottom-lining team (which is YOUNGO slang for managing team) to discuss and brief the audience about what is happening in the negotiations. The way these people talk and lead meetings is very nice. It is based upon deep transparency and equality rules, where everyone can hold the microphone to share their views.

The meeting began with the famous energizer, a short role-playing game where everyone sings, dances and shakes their body to wake up. Every meeting relies on the some communication rules in order to not to create a mess each time a discussion is brought to the table.  This helps ensure a democratic process. If you fully agree with something being said, turn your wrists above your head.  If you do not, move one hand up and down. To talk after someone, raise your hand above your head. If you want to make a direct response to a long speech, lower this hand towards the ground.

The meeting then continued with a discussion about the results of an internal election of representatives of the Global South. The atmosphere became tense over disagreements resulting from a previous discussion. Voices of speakers, seated all around in the audience, became more and more trembling, aggressive or calming, until a woman said: “We are here to fight against climate change, not to fight against each other.” Her intervention helped bring the discussion to a close.  However a few people remained emotional, as they had spent day and night negotiating these agreements.

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Tears and tensions are part of the will to bring about global change as are smiles and joys. Thanks to these profoundly engaged young people, the agreements signed by the parties incorporate youth interests.

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The Bold Climate Agenda of Jeremy Corbyn

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The better-than-expected results for Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party in the June 8 snap elections shocked the United Kingdom and the world. The election led to Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives losing their majority in Parliament, forcing May to form a coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a group of extremists who once appointed a climate denier as environmental minister. Following the election, Corbyn and his party have continued to surge in the polls. The prospect of a Corbyn-led government seems increasingly likely.

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The transformation of Corbyn from obscure backbencher to odds-on favorite to become prime minister should be a welcome change for environmentalists. Corbyn has called for keeping 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground, promoting renewable energy development and championing community energy cooperatives. He has been a vocal proponent of the Paris Agreement and harshly criticized May for her tepid condemnation of President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the agreement.

The 2017 Labour Manifesto offers a radical alternative to the much-maligned Conservative Manifesto on key issues such as the economy, Brexit, health care, education and housing. As for the environment, Labour offers a bold vision for the future of the United Kingdom. The Manifesto reaffirms the party’s commitment to meeting the country’s climate change targets, promises to introduce a new Clean Air Act, calls for a ban on fracking and commits to generating 60 percent of the country’s energy from renewables by 2030.

The Conservative Manifesto offers a different take on climate action. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas described the Conservative Manifesto as an “absolute car crash for the environment”. While the manifesto emphasizes the importance of climate leadership and renewable energy development, the document lacks vision on critical issues such as air pollution and fossil fuel extraction. Unlike the Labour manifesto, it devotes an entire section to developing the shale gas industry in the United Kingdom, drawing on the natural gas boom in the United States as a model.

With Corbyn’s fortunes on the rise, the Labour Party is ready to lead the United Kingdom in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. In an era when climate leadership is needed more than ever, Labour offers a welcome change from May’s weak leadership.

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