“Africa Roars” Aerial Art by John Quigley
Once again, in the shadows of COP15, it’s the young people from across the world, taking a stand, “roaring” for a binding global agreement and climate action. Sometimes it is through the art and the voice of the people, especially the youth, where change can easily take root-as seen by the impact of art, especially aerial art, to communicate a “higher” vision. The youth refuse to accept the prospect of a toothless treaty from leaders that claim to represent them at COP17. With their future under threat, young people are making their presence felt and their voices heard at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
As climate talks heat up in this second week, some nations are still uncertain about extending the Kyoto Protocol (KP), which is set to expire at the end of 2012 Young people are calling for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to be implemented immediately to provide a bridge to a new, more comprehensive climate treaty by 2015.
Tom Youngman, 18, from Bath, UK said: “A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is essential. The leaders of polluting nations have run out of excuses. We are running out of time. We need a legally binding agreement now to ensure a safe future for us and future generations. The Kyoto Protocol isn’t perfect, but it serves as an essential bridge to a new more holistic treaty. Under its watchful eye we’ve seen a transition in the way we live our lives – being ‘green’ is now thoroughly mainstream. It is essential leaders work together today to sign this treaty and protect our future. We stand with the leaders of vulnerable states that struggle to get their voice heard at these conferences when making this statement.”
This week, hundreds of young people have flooded the Durban conference centre playing host to COP17, the UN’s annual climate summit, donning t-shirts emblazoned ‘I ♥ KP’. Even leading negotiators have worn ‘I ♥ KP’ t-shirts and ties, showing that support for this treaty is widespread.
This support was echoed by a negotiator speaking on behalf of the Africa group, speaking in the plenary session, who stated: “We will not let African soil become the graveyard for the Kyoto Protocol.”
A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that we have five years to prevent irreversible changes in our climate and catastrophic impacts on humanity. Young people echo the report’s findings in stressing the urgency of the situation and the necessity of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in Durban.
“The Maldives are already experiencing adverse impacts of climate change in the form of issues of food security, water scarcity, and dengue epidemics. The economy is totally dependent on natural resources. Already, the beaches on which we depend are eroding and coral reefs being bleached due to rise in sea surface temperatures.” said Aisha Niyaz, age 29, who has travelled from the Maldives to stand up for her and her community’s survival as part of global youth at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. “The Maldives was the first country to raise the issue of climate change in a UN general assembly. Without new legally binding commitments to act on climate change, our nation is doomed. Its future would be non-existent.”
The omnipresence of the “I ♥ KP” slogan is a symbolic call to negotiators to put politics aside and to remember what is at stake— lives and livelihoods of people and communities across the globe. By wearing the shirts throughout the negotiation halls, young people are reminding negotiators of the urgency in passing a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty in Durban.