I spent last weekend strategising and learning United Nations policy acronyms with UKYCC’s delegation to the UN climate change summit taking place in Qatar in November. Sound like a geek’s heaven, i.e. somewhere you’d really not want to give up your sunny Saturday to go to?
Well how about if I tell it this way? Last weekend I made friends with some inspring, hilarious and smart young people, we ate lots of biscuits and as a team we told stories, learnt from each other, and made a human pyramid.
It’s all in the way you tell it. As a climate change activist, you might be surprised that even I struggled to concentrate through all of a recent lecture (which, yes, I voluntarily attended) on Tropical Climate Change and Variability – particularly through phrases like ‘anthropogenic greenhouse warming’. What I did take from it was speaker’s concluding comments for each slide of graphs that were initially about as comprehensible to me as spirograph gone wrong – these helpfully began ‘basically, this means…’ or ‘what’s really important here is…’ By breaking it down into simple language, I didn’t feel stupid for not having looked in a science textbook for 5 years, and I could start to actually engage with the issues being discussed – rather than just daydreaming about tropical beaches.
That’s the big problem with climate change: it can seem both like an overwhelming threat and a problem that can be only understood and dealt with by technical experts and scientists. I’m not either of these – what it took for me to take an interest was hearing some of my friends at school explain why doing something to stop climate change was important to them, and then invite me along to help hand out spoof newspapers from 2050 at King’s Cross station. I enjoyed being part of a group of people who were taking an action they could all do, building on what the people they knew who had come up with this idea and written the content had done, to spread the word on something they believed everyone should have the chance to learn about.
Three years later, I made it to the UN, joining up with international youth climate campaigners to lobby negotiators at the Bonn climate change conference in May. Although we’d done the training to understand the science and the policy work, our messages to the delegates communicated the broader picture: our vision for a fairer, cleaner future. It can be easy to get lost among the UN anagrams that border on the ridiculous – SBSTA, AWG-ADP and LULUCF to name a few – but what gets me hooked are the basics of what is being discussed. Take the Shared Vision talks. This is about our hopes and dreams for the world we want to live in, an opportunity to articulate our ambition of what we can achieve, our central values of justice, community, happiness.
Of course, we have to be practical dreamers – we’ve got that from the science, informing us of our planet’s capabilities. But if we get down to the essentials, everyone can see how important, and, more crucially, how exciting, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – yes, it does always seem like there’s one too many Cs) can be. The young people attending the conference this November are on message: keep it simple, talk about what really matters to us all, and make real progress.
So as we continue to train up to send our team to Doha, Qatar, let us know what kind of world you’d like to see, and what is it about climate change that motivates you to learn more or take action – tweet @ukyccdelegation to help keep us focused on our goal of a FAB global treaty – that’s fair, ambitious and binding – but also fabulous!