What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

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IYCN Agents of Change Application now Available!

Are you passionate about the global debate on climate change? Do you want to learn about and help influence international policy on the matter?

The IYCN Agents of Change (AoC) program is now accepting applications for its delegation to the UN Climate Negotiations, COP14, happening in Poznan, Poland this December (http://www.mtp.pl/en). COP14 will determine the future of international policy on climate change, and youth must make their voices heard. The Agents of Change delegation will comprise of youth leaders and those passionate about the cause of climate change and sustainable development from across the country.

In the months leading up to the conference, the following will be required of delegates if selected:

  • The delegation should be well informed and will put forward their views on the topics to be discussed at the upcoming COP. This will subsequently be submitted to the UNFCCC for consideration.
  • The delegation will engage with youth from around the world and help towards the establishment of a permanent stakeholder status given “International Youth Delegation” at the UNFCCC.
  • The delegation will be required to contribute 200hrs to IYCN in the lead up to the COPS. This will include fundraising to get to Poland, discussing and proposing policy for UNFCCC consideration, and volunteering to ensure the existence and growth of the network.
  • The purpose of the Agents of Change is to show to the world that Indian youth are aware of and active on the topic of climate change. Indian youth will serve as an important bridge as they will provide the voices of youth from not only India but those from large nation of the global South. These youth will have the unique opportunity to bring the voices of the Indian youth to the negotiators (including the official Indian negotiators) at the crucial talks.

    IYCN will make every effort to secure funding for the AoC delegation, however due to the high cost of traveling to Poland, financial support is not guaranteed. Upon confirmation of involvement in the program, delegates will be required to submit a draft plan for individual fundraising and to stick to that plan. IYCN will work with each participant to identify and contact potential funding sources, and will do what it can to ensure that financial need is not an obstacle to participation.

    COP14 Agents of Change Application

    Deadline: 5:00pm IST, July 31, 2008


    Who will Arise to the Climate Challenge?

    \"Youth Want Hard Caps on Emissions from Industrialized Countries!\" Bali Climate Chnage Talks, December 2007Youth: comprising 48% of the global population, or roughly 3 billion people. It is our future that was at the negotiating table in Bali last December at the UN Climate Change Conference. Yet we the youth had no say about our very own future that according to some has already been burned away by the generations preceding us. It is important to note that the so called “developing countries,” where more youth are coming from simply because of demographic advantage and where more people directly depend on their natural resources for day to day survival, have more to lose from our changing climate than those in the industrialized nations. It is ok to sit back and not be phased by it if you are not sensing the change that is already evident around us. But to those youth of South Asia, where more than a billion people depend on an increasingly erratic monsoon and where the lives of hundreds of millions depends directly on waters sourced from the retreating glaciers of the Himalayas, we must arise to address this looming crisis of global proportions and unimaginable local implications.

    When I embarked on my journey to Bali this last December with the US youth delegation (yes, youth representatives of the world’s largest emitter of green house gases), I was looking forward to bridging the voices of youth from the global North with those of the global South. Being an Indian citizen, it was a rather unique opportunity to be in the middle of one of the biggest road-blocks to the success of the negotiations: the as of yet irreconcilable US vs. rapidly industrializing country view on the “common but differentiated responsibility” for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, I found myself to be the only Indian youth present (and one of only a few from all of South Asia) at the historic talks which were supposed to define how negotiations would take shape in the post 2012 world. With this in mind, I helped form an Asian Youth Caucus on the sidelines of the informal “International Youth Delegation” which was dominated by well organized and well informed youth from Canada, Australia and the United States. In an effort to get increased participation from youth from the global South and give a more holistic angle to the youth perspective, it was apparent that we would need an unofficial Asian youth caucus which would help us share stories and ideas in the Asian context. Being the only Indian youth—I aimed to bring in the stories of and plug in the voices of youth from South Asia in this pan-Asian network.

    The start of the conference was filled with high energy and high hopes—all of which turned into frustration in the second week. Recent polls in the US have revealed that approximately 80% of the population would now like to see firm action on climate change. Within the last year we saw major youth movements across the US in the form of the “Step It Up” campaign, and more recently, the largest public gathering on climate change, “Power Shift,” which saw nearly 6,000 youth from nearly every congressional district in the US converge on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Why then one would ask, is there a disconnect between the current administration and what the majority of Americans really want? The US negotiators in Bali asked of us whether we had the votes within the US to demand of them to make stronger commitment at the international negotiations (because it is the administration in power that dictates international policy). Thus the goal of our delegation was clear: go back to the US and mobilize the masses to take action at the polls—which we hope will happen in the coming elections. Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that change will only come with the spreading of awareness.

    Meanwhile my interaction with the Indian officials can be summed up by sharing one simple interaction: upon my telling one of the negotiators that I was an Indian youth representative, he simply replied, “the youth? . . . Shouldn’t they have the same views as their elders?” This is one of the fundamental problems right now. The problem of climate change is so complex that politicians must realize that it goes well beyond the games they play. Its ecological implications are so far reaching that it is a problem that will cross-cut generations and be magnified for our generation. Youth of India, a young nation, must have their voices heard by politicians who are debating our very future. A nation at the cross-roads, while we must demand climate equity at an international level, we must also demand that we do not go down the pathway of the industrialized nations before we too find ourselves in a hydrocarbon trap.

    Asian Youth Caucus, UN Climate Change Talks, Bali, IndonesiaSo where do we begin? There is hardly any debate amongst us youth here in India right now regarding climate change. Yet there are signs of the change all around us. Go to the rural areas and ask the struggling farmers whether they have noticed a change in the weather patterns within the past 10 or more years and the answer is always yes. Look to your cities—are they too choked with fumes from the growing number of cars in the back drop of a rapidly expanding concrete jungle with decreasing green cover? Make the connections and see where our country is headed. Some will argue of poverty and education being bigger priorities for our growing nation. Others will point at the US and the industrialized nations claiming they should take action, not us. While this is true, won’t our abject poverty make us even more vulnerable to the changing climate? Do we sit by and watch our own house burn? Shouldn’t we as Indians redefine the concept of “development” which we always associate with the West? Where do we begin? Perhaps we should start by discussing it in an Indian context and eventually establish an “Indian Youth Charter on Climate Change.” I hope that this all too important dialog will begin before it is too late.

    Before the Bali conference, I never dreamed that a process on which the world’s fate rests so heavily could be so complicated and so cumbersome to the point that all sense of urgency is lost in the labyrinthine process itself. I have never been so disappointed with the international political process. We did leave Bali with a victory of sorts with the US conceding to the need for deep emissions cuts. The youth present at the conference had made a stand in the final hours of the harrowing debate and we believe that our voices were heard. It is with this hope and our attempts to get official stake holder status with the UNFCCC (Framework Convention on Climate Change) that I am more determined now than ever before to become a part of this dialog and to make change happen from the bottom up. As youth from India, a country whose role in the process is becoming increasingly apparent, we must make our voices and our presence felt not just at the national but international level. Climate change is the biggest challenge any generation has had to face in the history of the planet and how we address it will define the fate of all humanity. Who then is ready to take up this climate challenge?

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    Siam makes way for Bali Action Plan

    You would expect the climate change talks to have taken off with a “Bang” here in the capital of Thailand.India at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks 2008 Yet the sense amongst most observer groups is that there are no negotiations really taking place. The biggest challenge is carrying forward the energy of the Bali Action Plan which came out of intense final hour negotiations back in December 2007. It is already nearing the last day and it is becoming obvious that the delegates are losing track of time. And there are very heavy issues on the table including: adaptation (how we will finance technology for adaptation, do we couple it with mitigation, how do we determine which nations are the most vulnerable), mitigation (what does measurable, reportable, verifiable emissions reduction targets mean?), Finance (which instruments will be utilized for mobilization and control of funds, and more importantly where will we get the massive amounts of funding required?), etc.

    “You can fly, to any city in Thailand. I hope you get a chance to explore this beautiful country before you all leave,” stated the deputy Prime Minister of Thailand during his opening plenary address. I noticed more than a few people smirk in the room. One of the key issues being discussed here are the roping in of various industrial and cooperative sectors into the negotiating process–one of the most important being bunker fuels from aviation and shipping–emissions from the former having continued to rise at 3% each year while the latter’s emissions have doubled since 1990. A presentation today by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the primary organization held responsible for checking the growth of emissions from this industry/sector revealed some of the key challenges to addressing the problem.

    Challenges include things like access to and quality of data, methodology, comparability and the problem of emissions from transboundary and multinational flights and those crossing areas outside national jurisdiction were of key concern. However the presentation (which was quite poorly put together with only 3 slides) left a lot to be desired regarding actual moves to check the growth of emissions coming from the sector–and the main culprits having not checked the growth of emissions are the ICAO and IMO (International Maritime Organization). The aviation sector is expanding rapidly in the emerging economies (and rightly so, considering the new found wealth in those nations). Those with vested interests in trade would have business as usual with regards to curbing emissions in this sector–Panama, Singapore, and China again, being some of them. Curiously, small island states as well, as their remoteness requires a heavy reliance on both shipping and aviation for survival. New Zealand made a point to address this latter issue and stated the need to consider geographical remoteness and national circumstances when drafting final policy.

    The debate on forests has been reopened as the issue of carbon stocks is taken up once more. This time it comes under LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry). While NGOs are wanting appropriate accounting of emissions from peat and degraded forests, governments are talking of carbon harvested products (timber products) serving as carbon sinks!

    To speak specifically in the Indian context, the climate change negotiators have all been changed. This time not a single one of them is from the Ministry of Environment & Forests. To show the seriousness of the issue to the government, it is being handled by the foreign relations department and none other than the man behind the Indo-US nuclear deal. Make of that what you will.

    For the 1000 delegates convening here from 190 nations around the world, time is running out in this “City of Angles.” Where is the divine intervention that is needed to move this process along?