Not in my culture.
Yesterday was an extremely busy day!!
It started off getting up at 6.30 to be able to get to the conference by 8am to prepare an action as the delegates walk in. As they sauntered past we wore face masks of the worst culprits in the negotiations, and the best of the best. Dubbing it the ‘School Report on Country Delegations’ we asked delegates as they walked through our avenue of school report: were they a good or a bad pupil? had they done their climate homework?
Then I drafted and sent out two letters to reinvigorate the pledge part of the Survival project initiated in Poznan. One to Japan, announcing our disappointment in their crappy 2020 targets that they had announced the day before-15% below 1990 levels, i.e a reduction of 8%! They frankly may as well not bother. Anyway, see the letter below for the jist!
11th June 2009
Dear [Japanese Delegates name],
This is a letter from the youth, on the announcement of your GHG reduction targets for 2020.
We would like to express our extreme disappointment in these targets, and remind you of a promise that you made in Poznań.
The International Youth Delegation launched Project Survival in Poznań, with the intention of signing on all the countries party to the Convention. The pledge was “to safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples.” We can say with the utmost certainty that your 2020 target announced this week is not sufficient to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable nations and peoples.
And, as can be seen currently in the display on the second floor of the Maritim, you even signed our pledge twice!
We urge you to reconsider your objectives and remember the millions of people whom you represent and will affect with these targets. Every line of text in this protocol, and every target you set, affects real change in the future. Please bear this in mind when you negotiate on Japan’s behalf.
As part of a global effort, Japan must set targets of more than 40% GHG reductions (compared to 1990 levels) by 2020. To prevent runaway climate change and safeguard our futures, we must stabilise CO2 concentrations well below 350ppm. Technologically you are in a fantastic position to be able to achieve such a target; it is not beyond your reach.
If Japan, among the richest nations in the world, cannot take on ambitious targets, it is in no position to demand similar levels of ambition from poorer nations. Instead, Japan must not only set ambitious domestic targets, but also provide financial and technological support to enable poorer nations to develop along a low-carbon path.
We cannot accept half measures, and someone needs to lead the way. Why not you?
With respect and hope,
Youth from across the world
When Alice and I went down to the plenary hall to find the Japanese delegates as they were coming out, we found one of the negotiators sitting behind the Japanese table having an interview with a French film crew. We hung on in there until they had finished, recruited a few more youth, and then went in for the kill. With 6 individually addressed envelopes for the key players in the Japanese delegation we delivered our message. He grinned at the 5 of us and we ended up being drawn into a long conversation about Japans targets and their role in the negotiations. At this point, the film crew ran back and the cameras started rolling as we bombarded the Japanese delegate with questions. He was very aware that climate change is happening, he told us that the Cherry Blossom which used to be a symbol of the emerging spring only comes out at the end of spring. He told us that the tuna fish and other fish stocks are considerably depleted. He told us that the Japanese culture is such that they will adopt the lifestyle the Government tells them to adopt, and that a lot of their people are calling for serious action on climate change. He told us all these things, yet in the same sentence, said he thought an 8% cut in emissions by 2020, for the second richest country in the world, was enough. Enough to combat his failing cherry blossom and fish stocks, enough to quench the Japanese peoples desire for climate justice, and enough for us 5 standing in front of him.
He very quaintly suggested that Japanese culture is different from that of the rest of the world (which I don’t doubt, but wait for it!) and they weren’t a figures-kind-of-country. Therefore, emissions figures and numbers weren’t really a concern or a priority for them, as, well, figures just aren’t in their culture.
Just wait ’til climate change is your culture.
Then we ran off to a meeting with Uk youth and 2 of the UK negotiators. Both were lovely, and both apparently committed environmentalists, but as they kept emphasising-that just isn’t enough. When the real stalemate comes from political will in Annex1 countries like Russia, Japan, US etc (developed countries) they will negotiate as the polls tell them, because the voter is key, the voter is them.
Any mandate a Government sets out, a delegation of civil servants has to follow, no matter what their personal inclinations or motivations, and no matter what situation arises in plenary, their remits are set before they arrive, and that is what they stick to: nothing below, nothing above.
We asked Harry and Jan what they thought we should be doing as youth, to try and remove the blockages, what is it that can get the process moving? their answer? Change the voting opinion. Work hard at home to make sure every constituent is aware of climate change, and empowered to feel like expressing their concerns, without this popular movement criticising the failings of Governments so far in these negotiations, we will not get anywhere.
THEN, we tootled off to a G8 countries and youth meeting. Meaning as many of the 8 countries in G8 set were invited to attend a meeting with the youth, not to talk policy, but movement building, the broader picture, and not losing site of our goal. It was more a round table than a meeting per se. Anyway, it was awful.
First of all, only Italy, UK, Czech Republic, and Germany turned up. But that was alright, they are major emitters, and key players in the EU, which negotiates as a block. The UK guy was indifferent, barely concerned enough to respond to my introduction as a fellow UKer, and frankly more like a wet fish. He lay down in his chair, studiously inspected his nails the entire time-even when people were talking directly to him- whilst imparting his ‘wisdom’. The Czech fellow was more forthcoming, but annoyingly figures minded, he also pressed the wrong buttons of every young person in the room, when he announced at the beginning of the meeting, that nothing in science is a certainty, and targets are not entirely accurate, and so he disagrees with us that 40% is ‘needed’. He said that, after Anna Collins from the UK had expressed her frustration at meeting the UK’s head negotiator for international climate change, and on insisting that 40% emissions reductions targets for 2020 was imperative to our survival; ( i.e without that MINIMUM target we only have a 50/50 chance of survival-would you get on a plane with only a 50/50 chance of getting out at the other end?) he replied that 40% is laughable-he would be laughed out of the room if he proposed such a target in the EU, and that we should be happy with 20% by 2020. As Anna rightly said, what’s so laughable about our future?
Between the Czech representative and James from the UK, I fought to hold back tears of frustration and despair. Brought on by the offhand and frankly irresponsible way the two men bandied about figures like 750ppm as though this were Monopoly. on achieving 350 ppm James from the UK said “We blew it in Kyoto. We are where we are because we blew it.” According to him f we had set out the problem and aimed to solve it right away, we could have plateaued at 350ppm, but now that we are already at 388, and with no binding international climate agreement as of yet, we have no hope in reaching that target, and we can forget about 450, we’re heading straight for 650 to 750ppm. He said “If we reign it in at 650 we will have done well.” Did he realise in that comment, and in his colleagues nod of a head he just signed our death warrant? our execution papers? Out of 18 people in the room, only 4 might not be alive in 2050. We will.
And to put the cherry on top, James UK’s last comment was, “if you campaign to get rid of the ITS (Some new technology programme) I will personally come round your house and kick you in.”
Lovely. Thats want we want to hear for our efforts.