Stocktaking at COP18

I am writing this from the Qatar National Convention Center, where negotiators are still convening well into the night, on the last stretch of yet another UN climate summit. I am however feeling very detached from it all, partly because there are no indications that the outcome will be fair, just or in-line with the science, but also because as I sit here I  realize that the relationships I formed over the last two weeks with the youth of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) are for me the most significant outcomes from this conference.

While a number of civil society groups and coalitions have scaled back their participation at this year’s UN summit in Qatar, the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) has been participating in full force. 

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It’s hard to believe that this network of  youth climate activits came into existence only 12 weeks ago at the AYCM inaugural workshop in Cairo, which I took part in organizing. From that workshop onwards, national coordinators set about to recruit local teams to organize the very first Regional Day of Climate Action on November 10th.  What started off as a small group of 20 or so national coordinators has quickly become a network of 200 organizers and around 1,000 fans (and growing).

Only 12 days after this largely successful day, AYCM was quickly plunged into UN climate negotiations here in Qatar– a physically and emotionally taxing experience that I still struggle to cope with but that they’ve handled like pros.

The dedication and passion that youth from these Arab countries  have brought here has been truly inspiring;

They came here with a message to urge Arab countries to take leadership on climate, and delivered petition signatures urging their leaders to pledge to reduce their emissions .

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They also questioned the Arab world negotiators with such passion and honesty. This was something new and startling to many Arab world negotiators, as evident by the expressions of alarm on the faces of certain  delegates who rushed out of the Arab League room as soon as they saw around 30 Arab youth coming their way.

However, perhaps the Philippines’ lead negotiator Naderev ” Yeb” Saño put it best when he said, “Climate Change will not be solved by conferences. It will be solved by youth like you — by actions at the grass roots level.”

This sentiment has been increasingly shared by many after witnessing the slow process here at the negotiations. Lets face it; our movement so far has not been powerful enough to achieve what science and justice say is necessary to get us back on track to a 2 degree world, let alone a 350 ppm one.  That is why I’m excited about GlobalPowerShift.org; a  global climate convergence happening in Istanbul between June 10-17, 2013 which will be a launch pad for us to scale up our movement like never before and summon an unprecedented level of political pressure for climate action by 2015 (the year when a global climate deal is set to be in place).

As predictable as the outcomes of this last night of negotiations might be, the outcomes of youth organizing are far from it. As Abdullah from Bahrain put it “It’s taken us a while to be a part of this global movement but we’re finally here and we’re just getting started.” 

 

 

 

  • The People’s Climate March was INCREDIBLE. Check out the photos and more at peoplesclimate.org

  • People’s Climate photos pouring in from around the world — check out the growing photo galleries here.

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