On the 13th- 15th of November, I was given the possibility through Plan Germany’s youth advisory panel to visit the 23. UN Climate Conference in Bonn together with Björn, Jessica from the headquarters in London, Marilou from Australia and Bhushan from Myanmar.
This was my first experience at an international Conference, so I have to admit, I was pretty excited.
The COP zones were separated into two areas, the Bula zone for the actual negotiations and the Bonn zone, for the side events, working groups and many networking opportunities. Even though we weren’t permitted to visit the Bula zone, I think in hindsight it was just as much an opportunity to be able to spend three days in the Bonn zone, due to us being able to meet so many inspiring people and to see what smaller groups do to contribute towards tackling climate change.
Björn and I visited a couple of really interesting side events including a session held by Scotland’s 2050 youth climate group. The group aims to lead a social movement by engaging, educating and empowering Scotland’s Future Leaders to take action on climate change. In an interesting discussion, we shared our views about youth commitment as well as our concerns towards the devastating impacts of climate change and the common feeling of utter powerlessness towards the political system. We discussed better ways for young people to be heard and how to break through the stereotype of adults making decisions.
In the meantime, we also spent a lot of time exploring the Bonn zone, inhaling the many impressions and exchanging thoughts with people from all over the world. On Tuesday afternoon, we had a really encouraging encounter with a teacher from the United States. He told us how each year, he takes his classes to the UN Climate Conferences, to enable his students an insight into global issues and to raise awareness towards our climate. His goal is to provide inspiring information which moves his students to want to make a change in their futures.
Even though I personally found the actual negotiations disappointing, especially from the German side, speaking to these kind of people really made the experience of being at the climate conference so incredible for me. (I felt that Germany and the EU were not anymore the forefront for climate protection. The coalition talks on how to constitute a new government, demonstrated this clearly. Job losses in Germany were being discussed more in depth than measures to protect the climate.)
On Wednesday I experienced my personal highlight. Jessica from the Plan headquarters organised a side event with Unicef, Word Vision, Save the Children, Child Fund and Shelby (10 years old) from Fiji with the focus on child rights, climate change and climate action. Björn and I were both given the opportunity to be able to hold a speech and to take part in the panel discussion.
I found the entire event incredibly moving, especially due to Shelby’s powerful and very emotional (at least for me) speech about her personal encounters with climate change in her home town in Fiji.
Björn and I talked about child and youth engagement and how youth advisory panels are a great example for giving young people the possibility to learn, lead, thrive and decide. We also discussed that these kinds of spaces are too rare in politics and organisations and how many vital decisions are being made while children and youth are not sufficiently involved. Seeing as young people are often the most effected by climate change, they are currently having to live with decisions being made for them, not with them.
Based on article 12 of the UN convention on the rights of the child (“children have the right to participate in decisions effecting them”), we called out to governments, organisations and the civil society to take into account what we have to say and to work with us on a fair scale.
I felt incredibly grateful for being given the chance to be able to speak out at such an important event. The entire experience of being at the UN Climate Conference was great and it truly felt motivating to be surrounded by so many energetic and passionate people, all trying their best to make some kind of difference in our collective fight against climate change.
Text: Claire Jacklin
More information about COP 23 can be found here. Please enjoy it!