The way things stand right now, the negotiations are teetering between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op, according to the briefing I received by a Friends of the Earth member who addressed us here at the Fresh Air Center.  NGOs have now been totally blocked from entering the Bella Center, even with a secondary badge. 

Like I said, I’m not inside the Bella Center today.  I might have been, if the civil disobedience that was being planned had turned out. 

The US youth delegation was planning on sitting in on the US Delegation Office and declaring itself to be the new negotiating team, then announcing the correct mitigations targets needed to prevent the climate system from imploding (since the US is the world leader, no one will commit without the US committing first).  We would have dressed in our most professional clothes and refused to leave until security guided us out.  It would have been peaceful and functioned as one last hurrah before we are shut out entirely tomorrow.

This idea came from an international youth idea to take over the US Delegation Office, but this would have looked really bad on their part in the international media; their message would have easily been lost.  Therefore, we decided we needed an American core, with the support of all international youth–who would accompany us, not be subject to getting kicked out or arrested.

I would totally have supported this and been willing to sit in the line of fire.  When my future is so callously tossed aside in the interests of petty things, risking arrest and being permanently kicked out of the UN (even if one day I do want to be a diplomat) seems pretty unimportant to me.

But–our action was hijacked.  It was twisted from its original statement to become an action in which international youth sit down in the US Center and make a list of demands.  The US Center is not the same thing as the US Delegation Office.  The Center is an informational section right next to the EU Center, and is generally open to the public; it is used for presentations; the diplomats don’t hang out there.  All symbolic meaning was effectively lost by doing this.  Moreover, the US youth delegates no longer would no longer have been doing the taking over.  International youth had protested that they should have a role–which they should, but to include them in the takeover would have conveyed the image of rowdy anti-Americanism.  Great messaging, guys.

Then, the message was further lost by trying to combine the protest against the US with a protest against Canada.  For those who are unaware, Canada has a terrible record regarding climate change action.  I can see that, and see that it needs to be addressed–but let’s not forget that they, too, are hiding behind the US as an excuse not to act.  The US needed to be the target here.

I don’t pretend to be an red-necked uber-patriot, but what really set me against this was when the folks who had been hammering out the details–neither of whom were American–declared the US negotiating team to be “incompetent” and called the US Center the “Propaganda Center” multiple times.  (It’s sort of true, but come on–every piece of literature you will receive in the Bella Center is some form of propaganda.)  Saying it once would have been funny.  Saying it multiple times–especially by a non-American–was really offensive to me as a US national.

That was incredibly insensitive–about 1/3 of those in the meeting were Americans.  Furthermore, the US negotiating team hardly qualifies as incompetent–they simply can’t negotiate beyond what the government allows.  We’re briefed on respecting the nationalities of others when we come to these events–maybe other countries should learn to do the same. 

I also noted that almost no one from the global south (who will most keenly feel the effects of climate change) was represented in this potential action, and I got the feeling that this was turning into some sort of “arrogant European*” radical anti-American action.  The discussion was so badly split on this issue that I took the opportunity to leave.  I don’t know whether it will ever materialize, but I for one will not be a part of it.

I’m not sure why I just spent 700 words telling you this, but it sheds light on what it’s like to work at a COP as a youth delegate.  With all of our energy and idealism, we too stood on the brink between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op.  High pressure didn’t matter; politics got in the way of what was necessary.  The End.

*I don’t think Europeans are arrogant, by the way, but since they wanted to call spades for what they are, then so will I.

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Youth have a special place at the UN COP talks.  We have had a presence since the UNFCCC was developed in Rio in 1992, but the International Youth movement has only taken off since the Bali Talks in 2007 (COP13).  In this short amount of time, we have gained recognition as a stakeholder in the process, and have gained constituency status. (It means we are accredited NGO observers and are assigned UN photo IDs like this one: 

Most hilarious accreditation badge EVER.

 

 We are called YOUNGOs (for YOUth NGOs).  There are over 1000 of us in attendance this December, and we have a special role within the COP.  Yvo de Boer, the Secretariat, has called us the moral voice of the UN.  Our presence there reminds our lawmakers of the future that is at stake.  

As such, we try to be as visible as possible.  We hold small demonstrations within the walls of the Bella Center (with the Secretariat’s approval).  We bring energy and color to the conference, and apparently a lot of people really love us for it. 

Here are some of the things we do: 

Today, Indigenous people, the Canadian youth, and American youth collaborated to pull of a protest of Tar Sands.  We did this in a hallway.  It was similar to the earlier event with AOSIS. 

Organic Apple cart guy

 

Here are some other pictures: 

This guy literally rides around the Bella Center selling apples for a dollar or so.  Even I can afford that!  Although now that I think about that, that’s an obscene amount for just one apple… 

This guy was dressed up as a polar bear and getting his photo taken.  Polar bears are to the natural world what the Maldives are to nations: a poster child for the effects of Global Climate Change.  Both are in danger. 

And this is the Fossil of the Day award, put on by Climate Action Network (CAN).  Every day CAN finds 3 countries who have done something to obstruct the negotiations process and assigns them first, second, and third prize.  So far this year, Canada is winning.  And not only is this fun and creative, but it also is a way of informing people of the outcomes and drawbacks of the day’s negotiations.