Eilidh Robb speaks of her experience so far at COP23


The Conference of the Parties UN Climate Change Conference features national representatives in suits, and government officials making plans to make plans.

These conversations are undoubtedly important, and consideration of climate change at such an international level is not something to scoff at, but neither are young people, so call us adorable one more time and we will see who the change-makers really are!

On attending an event featuring the youth exchange programme run between Germany and Fiji in the run up to COP23, I learned how important it is to connect communities across the world. The stories that the Fiji youth shared not only emphasised the urgency of climate change mitigation, but also the influence of young peoples’ perspectives on government initiatives. German youth representatives too, shared what they had learned from their time in Fiji as well as the impacts their work has had on the German government – particularly noting the power of youth through the inclusion of inter-generational justice in the Paris Agreement (2015).

“I chose to join the Youth Engagement discussion. A tall man in a suit proceeded to dominate the entire conversation, dictating his views on “problems” with youth movements…he called what we do “ADORABLE””

Yet, unfortunately this promising outlook on youth achievements was overlooked by what happened next. On breaking out into groups to discuss several issues, I chose to join the “Youth Engagement” discussion. Initially pleasantly surprised to see that two older men (in suits) had also chosen to join in the discussion, I was excited to see that youth engagement was resonating beyond just literally young people.

Boy, was I wrong.

A tall man in a suit proceeded to dominate the entire conversation, dictating his views on “problems” with youth movements. His main argument being that young people need more of a presence in politics, government, and serious suit-wearing negotiations. He failed to listen and understand the realities of young peoples’ influence, and proceeded to criticise youth participation as something that lacked credibility. Most outrageously, he called what we do “ADORABLE”.

On reflection, I wish I hadn’t been so enraged by his contribution, as it distracted me from catching his name, who he represented, and being able to formulate a coherent response. I did however question the notion that government and politics are the only movements through which progress and change can be made. (His response was something along the lines of suits, suits, suits…)

But I have the chance to respond now, and I won’t be holding back.

“Putting children in suits is not the fix to “take young people seriously”…we are already serious”

Young people are powerful because we are fearless.

Young people are motivating because we are not afraid to own our youth and use it to facilitate movements.

Young people are important because it is our future that you are messing with and we aren’t going to take that sitting down.

The solution to wider youth engagement is not to train an army of mini-adults. Putting children in suits is not the fix to “take young people seriously”. We are already serious, we are already being listened to, and we don’t need to breed child politicians for that to continue.

Of course, we can’t ignore the influence of political decision-making but young peoples’ enthusiasm is our best asset and it can drive us across all sectors (suit-wearing or not).

To anyone reading this, young, old, or somewhere in-between. Young people have power! Young people make positive change! And young people are NOT adorable!


Written by Eilidh Robb in Bonn, Germany

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