In 2009, an adventurous team of young people gathered in India to undertake a 3,500 kilometer journey across the country in search of solutions to climate change. This unforgettable journey in a caravan led by electric vehicles made quite a splash. Five years later thanks to Solar Punch, we are able to share this journey with you in snippets. For more on the tour, you can also visit the website.
From debate paralleling UN climate negotiations to Mr. Narayana Murthy’s address to the youth and from discussion of India’s emissions targets to staying up till 3am discussing the future youth want to build: the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change was a milestone for India’s youth movement on climate change.
The aim of the summit was to come out with a youth declaration on climate change to unite the individuals and organizations that have a stake in climate change – which is everyone! The summit also aimed to create the framework that would then move on to produce the India’s Youth Action Plan on Climate Change, climate policy that will be proposed to the government over the next 6-8 months. The summit was organized by the Friendship Foundation, Global Citizens for Sustainable Development, Nature & Biological Sciences Society, the Indian Youth Climate Network, and hosted by Infosys Technologies Limited at their Gachibowli campus.
It was agreed that “young people have power” as mentioned by guest speaker Bittu Sahgal, founder of Sanctuary Magazine, who went on to say it was time for youth to use it to their advantage. Deepa Gupta, co-founder of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), said, “There are so many young people working on this issue, and we won’t be listened to as individuals or as a small group of people, but mass united as the youth of India: we cannot be ignored. India has about 700 million under the age of 35. How can they not be represented in the decisions, when they are the ones that will be impacted the most by climate change?” This outlined the aim of IYCN, who have grown from a reach of 3 to over 200,000 people within 4 months of the inception of the youth movement.
Mr. Narayana Murthy, co-founder, non-executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, addressed the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change delegates. He encouraged all of the delegates to walk the talk, “I have always believed that the most powerful instrument that a leader has is leadership by example.” He further proved this by describing his sustainable living practices, including bathing with only half a bucket of water every day for the past 40 years.
Participants agreed that India needs to act urgently, commit to emissions reduction targets and renewable energy targets. They also agreed our actions need to be based on an international target of 350ppm concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. This was outlined by Mr. Will Bates from 350.org, as being the maximum safe upper limit for a safe and stable climate.
There was lots of discussion including a future India powered 100% renewable energy, international taxes to high carbon emitters, an independent GHG regulatory authority. There was also discussion on mandatory emissions reporting, all metropolitan roofs having rainwater harvesting systems by 2012 and adapting to the projected 125 million climate refugees in a business as usual scenario.
Youth presented on the climate impacts in their area, with representation ranging from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan to Meghalaya. They committed to actions in their states from organizing renewable energy expos, working with schools and colleges, lobbying their local government to implementing rural energy projects, organizing solar powered rock concerts and participating in the international climate negotiations.
The launch included all delegates from Hyderabad and AP signing on to the Hyderabad Climate Alliance Pledge, agreeing that they “understand that climate change is an impending global catastrophe… and believe that Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh will be particularly susceptible… and commit to contribute in earnest to mitigating climate change and helping the people and natural environment of Hyderabad to adapt.”
Other guest speakers included, Mr. Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations; Vandana Shiva, an eminent physicist, environmental activist, author and the founder of the Navdanya Institute; Amala Akkinani, film star and founder of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad, Gaurav Gupta from the Climate Project India, Dr Rajamani, Former Chief Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI, and speakers from CSM, Oxfam, Greenpeace and Sierra Club.
“We have a population of 650 to 700 million people under the age of 30. If we can mobilize this force, we will have enormous power for change to address climate change.”
“In your own group wherever you’re live, make the change”
“I think you’re on the ball, on the move, all the best”
“I may not be a climate expert, but I am a concerned citizen. I love my planet; it is my only home.”
“Young people have power, and it is time to use it to your advantage.”
“If a lot do a little, a lot gets done.”
“If your house is on fire, you can’t go downstairs and have a debate on who started the fire and who is responsible to put it out. You all need to get some water and put it out.”
Ms. Farida Tampal
“Genetic diversity in our food crops means that we will be protected from a single climatic disaster.”
Natasha Chandy of Greenpeace India
“If we need to fight climate change, we – tomorrow’s future – need to create a revolution today. IYSoCC is just the beginning.”
The third day of Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change may have been a torrential downpour, but it was no damper on the mood of the participants, who had another incredible day of discussions, including a discussion with the former Chairman and Founder of Infosys Technologies Limited, one of the world’s largest IT companies (90,000 employees!) which has been the generous host of the summit. Participants also had a chance to get to know each other a lot more during state breakout sessions, runs through the rain, and heated debates about how best to address climate equity.
The day began with a presentation by Gaurav Gupta of The Climate Project – India, which called for the youth to evaluate some of the hardest moral issues with regards to who should be bearing the costs of climate change adaptation and mitigation in countries like India. While India is suffering the largest impacts of climate change and is one of the world’s largest emitters of climate change, it has one of the lowest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions and must be allowed to develop to a higher level of per capita emissions, as developed nations must decrease their per capita and absolute emissions drastically. He also said that just as industrialized nations should be taxed based on their carbon emissions today, they should also be taxed for historical emissions, as the wealth of Europe and the United States is built on years of carbon emissions for which they were not charged.
The morning’s presentations also included presentations by Tapati Ghosh of Center for Social Markets and Brikesh Singh from Greenpeace India. Ms. Ghosh spoke about CSM’s projects to raise awareness about climate change, including the City Dialogues on Climate Change and Climate Challenge India, which received an award at the United Nations Climate Conference in Bali in 2007 as one of the world’s top five climate programs. Ms. Ghosh said, “Climate Challenge India seeks to build a new climate of hope and opportunity on climate change.” Brikesh Singh of Greenpeace India spoke about Greenpeace’s initiatives for grassroots action on climate change, and said, “If we need to fight climate change, we – tomorrow’s future – need to create a revolution today. IYSoCC is just the beginning.” Anugraha John and Digu Arachamy, both members of IYCN and organizers of IYSoCC spoke about climate change and impacts on water and agriculture, respectively.
Mr. Narayana Murthy, co-founder, non-executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, spoke to the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change delegates this afternoon about climate change and the power of youth to make a change. He encouraged all of the delegates to lead through their own examples, to walk the talk with regards to conservation of resources. “I have always believed that the most powerful instrument that a leader has is leadership by example.” He was very supportive of the motives and actions of the Indian Youth Climate Network, and said, “We have a population of 650 to 700 million people under the age of 30. If we can mobilize this force, we will have enormous power for change to address climate change.” He also told us that he only uses half a bucket of water each day to bathe, putting water conservation into action.
Youth from around the country discussed impacts in their own states, ranging from loss of glaciers and decreased tourism due to decreased snowfall in Himachal Pradesh, reduction in fruit production in Kashmir, to droughts and farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They also spoke about their solutions for their regions, including statewise support for subsidies on renewables, mandatory solar water heating and rainwater harvesting, and better educational campaigns on climate solutions. The most exciting part, of course, was the commitment made by individuals and by groups to take action when they do return home – to turn the words of the week into actions. The team from Delhi each committed to speaking at five schools or colleges to spread the message, and to meet in two weeks to discuss how to move the Delhi Charter on Climate Change into action.
Representatives from Bangalore agreed to compile a database of all organizations working on climate and environment in Karnataka and have a meeting on August 23 to unite them. In Hyderabad, groups committed to tree plantations. Many committed to share information and organize events for Project 350, an international grassroots movement to raise the number of 350 ppm as the international target for emissions. This has been identified as the only safe level of carbon emissions that will allow for a stable future climate, and is the base of international actions leading up to an international agreement for climate policy in Copenhagen at the United Nations climate negotiations in 2009.
In the afternoon, a group of international youth organizers spoke about their experiences internationally. Deepa Gupta told of direct actions that were organized in Australia, including chaining activists to trees to prevent being cut down and the Youth Climate Action Camp which included hundreds of youth lying on railway tracks to prevent coal trains from reaching a new coal plant. Two students from Nepal spoke about the impacts of climate change in Nepal and the international youth movement’s actions there. Representatives from the United States spoke about the shift from fear-based to hope-based climate action and the campus based movements that spread across the country, including Nathan Wyeth from Sierra Student Coalition and Will Bates from Project 350. In particular, Mr. Bates highlighted the effectiveness of national days of actions, including Step it Up 2007, in which 1400 communities and campuses across the country in all 50 states held events to call for 80 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2050.
The official sessions ended with a painting session, with delegates painting canvases depicting their thoughts on climate change, impacts and solution that OxFam India will be bringing to this year’s international climate negotiations. The day ended with passionate discussions of climate equity and how best to address historical emissions, including questioning how colonial impacts, deforestation and land use change, and development pathways could be incorporated into such a tax.
Tomorrow is the final day of the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change, in which the Youth Declaration will be finalized after a few more working groups.