I’m sitting across from Kirsty Schneeberger at the UN Climate Sessions in Bonn, Germany. She’s had a big 24 hours. Yesterday at 6pm, she found out that she had been nominated to deliver a speech to the United Nations Climate Plenary Session. Picture a room filled with 300 people, and then picture little placards in front of most of them with the titles, “United States,” “Sudan,” “China.”
Of course, the speech had yet to be written, and of course, to get it just so, Kirsty needed to be involved so that it was written in her own words. That meant a late night of drafting (12pm) and then an early morning of editing (6am).
And then, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change isn’t exactly well-structured to allow lots of non-delegate interventions. So Kirsty needed to sit, from 10am until 1pm, waiting to be called upon at any moment to speak, unsure if she would speak at all.
But she did! And it was awesome. Her theme is youth, and the idea of intergenerational justice in the climate deal. Here’s a rough clip from one of our other friends here in Bonn – turn up the volume on this one – it was taken on a small digital camera (ah, technology). Things are exciting here and Bonn, and the applause Kirsty gets shows the burning desire many delegates and advocates in the room have for stronger targets, fairer mechanisms, and the youth who will implement the deal that comes out of these negotiations for their entire working lives.
How old will you be in 2050?
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
My global brothers and sisters, my name is Kirsty, and I am 24.
I am one of the hundreds of millions of young people around the world who are anxious about our future.
We have read the science and we understand. We must release ourselves from ‘business as usual’ and take a momentus leap, grasping our sustainable future with both hands.
To the developed countries – take this leap and put your targets on the table – minus 40% below 1990 levels by 2020; full decarbonization by 2050; and then, negative emissions. Youth want stabilization at well below 350ppm. Anything less ambitious is not good enough.
We commend the Maldives for their announcement that, at any cost, they will bring their nation to carbon neutrality within a decade. We need this is the sort of moral leadership from larger nations.
To the USA, Australia, Japan, Canada and New Zealand – your targets are stupid. You’ve got a few months to improve your positions, so start working harder.
The most reasonable proposals are from AOSIS and the LDCs – whose survival is not negotiable. If you think that their proposals are ‘not pragmatic’, you are denying these nations and their peoples their fundamental right to survival.
To developing countries: You too must make take on ambitious targets – we can’t solve climate change without you.
Now, everybody, consider this next question carefully –
how old will you be in 2050?
I will be 66, hoping to retire after four decades of work overseeing the total decarbonisation of society. As youth, we commit to working with you now and over the next 40 years to achieve this transformation.
Intergenerational Equity is crucial, but we need more than that – we’re also the people who will implement your agreement. We ask all nations to support youth to be formally recognised in this capacity, within the text of the Copenhagen agreement.
To conclude: I challenge each of you to come meet the youth here in Bonn and back home, to look us in the eye and tell us that you are confident that we still have a livable planet in 2050.
Because we will still be here.