Siiri with youth participants from the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition as well as two members of the Arab Youth Climate Coalition from Algeria
Saturday was the second day of the Conference of Youth at Education City. Although I attended a regional breakout session in which youth from North America met to strategize around lobbying issues and action ideas at COP, the majority of the agenda was dedicated to workshop time. These workshops were conducted by youth from around the world who presented on various topics regarding climate change advocacy and organizing in the context of the UNFCCC. The first workshop I attended, “Contaminated COP”, addressed the intimate relationship that the fossil fuel industry has at COP and how they consequently undermine the progress of the negotiations. Led by a member of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, the workshop stressed the importance of mobilizing in numbers against the incredibly influential power of the fossil fuel companies – an industry that is funded by the most profitable businesses in the history of the world.
After one car ride to New York City, three subway trips, and two planes rides totaling seventeen hours, I’ve finally made it to the 18th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of Parties held in Doha, Qatar! I’ve already begun to notice the impact that this international climate convergence has played here in Qatar – from the “COP 18 Count Me In” taxi advertisements to the large concentration of climate activists (who are often times quite easy to identify) found swarming to the Doha National Convention Center. Although other, perhaps more “lucrative”, international gatherings such as the Asian Games and the much-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup have heightened Doha’s global media status, no other event hosted here will shape the world quite like the outcomes of COP18 will prove to do. From reviewing the progress of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which aimed at reducing carbon emissions below 1990 levels, to negotiating treaties to implement beyond Kyoto’s conclusion, COP18 will set a global precedence on climate change policy for the year to come.
This week (Nov. 26- Dec 1) follow Siiri Bigalke as she participates in the United Nations climate conference, COP18, as our representative and youth leader.
Across the Midwest and the nation, youth organizers are not only getting out the youth vote, they are connecting the dots between the fossil fuels industry and elections and building an informed, committed, and passionate youth base.
Youth orgs across the Midwest are actively engaging their generation in the Presidential debates, elections and critical ballot measures, and creating pipelines for new leadership in the broader climate change movement.
MPIRG, WISPIRG and the MI Student Sustainability Coalition (MSSC) have been getting out the youth vote through voter drives and Energy Action Coalition’s Power Vote campaign. The MSSC has been garnering Michigan student support from across the state to support Prop 3. MPIRG has launched a voter education campaign calling on young voters to vote no on the anti-marriage and voter ID amendments to the state constitution. During the past four election cycles, WISPIRG’s New Voters Project has registered more than 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds.
Youth Mentorship and Professional Development
Grand Aspirations was successful in placing 5 of their participants from five summer of Solutions across the Midwest in paid positions across the region: YEA Corps, Minneapolis, Distributed Power, Detroit, A Just Harvest, Chicago, and MN350 in the Twin Cities. Positions for these emerging leaders were funding in part by the RE-AMP’S Strategic Initiative Fund, with matching funds from the host organization.
The Will Steger Foundation has paired 10 participants in an innovative mentorship program, matching youth leaders across the Midwest with veteran staff from environmental non-profits across the RE-AMP network. The mentor relationship is based on the premise that both participants have expertise to bring and aimed at foster mutual learning and growth that can benefit the entire RE-AMP network. Orientation will begin at the end of October with the mentorship contract running through May 2013.
Growing and Engaging the Youth Base
Energy Action Coalition is engaging youth voters across the US through their Power Vote campaign. Not only is the campaign aimed at getting youth registered for the November elections (with Michigan in the lead at 8,270+ registrations), it’s also aimed at ‘breaking the silence on climate change’ in the Presidential debates, and spotlighting the hand the fossil fuels industry is playing in both parties.
350.org will launch it’s ‘Do the Math’ tour across the US, Nov 7-Dec 1, with Midwest stops in Columbus OH, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and Omaha. The 350 youth outreach coordinator (Janina Klimas, former Director of the Ohio Student Environmental Coalition) is hard at work making sure youth know about the events (and free student/youth tickets!) and the opportunity to leverage it to benefit their own youth climate work in the city/state. In Minneapolis, MN350 has partnered with the MN Youth Environmental Network and Will Steger Foundation to host a daylong youth organizing retreat for students across the state on Dec 1.
The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program aims to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of climate leadership on a local, regional, national, and international scale.
40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year has definitely brought the U.S. the broad spectrum of extreme weather events that climate scientists have warned about for years.
"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about," Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, told The Associated Press.
Here in Minnesota, we’ve been hit with floods and unusual heat waves. “Duluth is maybe in the first wave of cities to adapt to climate change,” said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley after the June 20th flood. Climate scientists say increasing precipitation, particularly from intense thunderstorms, is a symptom of ongoing climate warming because warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air.
There are a few bright spots worth highlighting that show we are getting serious about addressing climate change – for instance, 80 educators are registered for our annual Summer Institute to learn how to address climate change in the classroom, and over two million Americans have submitted comments in support of the first ever carbon rule. Read about these stories and more in this month’s newsletter.
Nicole Rom, Executive Director
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