Youth forum at #COP23. Photo by Sustaining All Life.

On Saturday 11th of November the young members of Sustaining All Life led a forum called Young People Leading Climate Change Now and into the Future. We wanted to give young activists a chance to share their stories of being young people at the COP and to provide a platform for their perspectives to be heard. At Sustaining All Life we think that being listened to is really important, especially when you are facing challenging situations. As one of our delegates put it when asked by one of the young people from Haiti, “when you get to tell your story it lifts your heart.”

Below are some of stories shared by young climate activists at the forum:

My journey to becoming a climate activist – youth delegate from Fiji

“On the morning of February 20th 2016 I got a phone call from my university asking if I was okay. They said have you called you home? The whole western province [of Fiji] was facing a telecommunications shut down. The only place that I could call was the disaster management office to ask if my mum was at the evacuation centre.”

“I went to the home – lets not even talk about the home, it’s a material thing, it was gone. It was a sight that I have never seen in my life, having experienced some many hurricanes and cyclones for the past decades that I had grown up in Fiji. I never wanted to see the sight that I had seen – it was completely demolished.”

“It’s stupid for people to ask me if there is climate change – how often have you seen a tropical cyclone make a U-turn? It’s not often, it is the changing weather conditions that caused it to change.”

“That’s were my journey began – from witnessing first hand how climate change impacted my Mum. That experience was very devastating and I started my activism work there.”

“We need to remind the negotiators in there that we need to stop negotiating, because they are negotiating our lives, the life of my three-year-old daughter who has not seen yet what life holds for her. She might not have an island to call home. So please stop negotiating and involve us youth in the decision making process because we need to be involved and consulted in processes of policy making and implementation.”

What’s wrong with the COP – young Engineers Without Borders volunteer

“I came to the COP to see what is going on at the political level and with the negotiations, to see why it is so hard to achieve a pretty simple aim—that is to save the earth. I am a bit disappointed about the negotiations because I am discovering that it takes a lot of time and it is always about business and not about changing our points of view. It is just about how we can maintain our current way of life without using fossil fuels, but not about whether we can change our way of life.”

Action not relocation – youth delegate from Fiji

“I am working with one of the vulnerable committees that the Fiji government has highlighted to be relocated. When I asked them do they really want to be relocated as part of climate change mitigation and adaptation their response was we are not going to move but we can do something about it.”

“So I am working with that community and so far we have planted fifty-thousand mangrove plants along the coast and also we have planted coastal vegetation to help in the process of coastal erosion.”

“So I believe in here as a youth we are stronger than we think. I believe that together we can make a move and we can change the thing, even without the government and the negotiations.”

Pushing for a fast coal exit in Germany for the sake of my family – young climate activist from Germany

“I grew up in a place next to a coal mine about 30 kilometres from Bonn and a few of my family members work for the company who owns this place. There are negotiations in the German government and I am here with and youth delegation who is trying to convince them to make a fast coal exit.”

“I come from there and I experience the pollution from the mine and family is being removed. I hope that we can end this.”

Creating spaces for young people to step in and step up – UK Youth Climate Coalition delegate

“Hello I have come with the UK Youth Climate Coalition for the first week of COP. I will just briefly share my experience of empowerment in youth climate activism. As generally quite a shy person I found it quite hard to get involved with the climate movement and activism – I was often afraid and I’ve been involved with number of people who like to help others by creating space for other people to step in and step up.”

“All the time with the Youth Climate Coalition we have been trying to embody the principles that we want to see in the society we are trying to create through the importance of facilitation and listening to each other.”

“We met the UK delegation this and many of us left the meeting feeling very disempowered because we felt we were condescended. They weren’t taking what we were saying seriously and we are trying to reconsider what our relationship is with them from now on.”

“I completely agree young people have just as much of a voice at the table and it is our future that is being negotiated at that table. Some of these stories have been really really powerful and that is the reason we need to be sharing like this more because COP itself is quite a bubble and we really need to be sharing these stories more and not just letting the mainstream media dictate how it is being told. Keep creating this space for each other to feel comfortable and speak – its really really important.”

We need to stop saying that we are the future, because we are the present – young delegate from Costa Rica

Young activist from Costa Rica speaks about women working with renewable energy. Photo by Sustaining All Life.

“I am a renewable energy engineer working in photovoltaics and I am currently starting a programme for women working in renewable energy. I just would like to say we are very few negotiators that are young people and I think that it is important to keep in mind that we can do it now, you just have to keep pushing to get these spaces. And please keep in mind we need to stop saying that we are the future, because we are the present.”

The reality in Haiti – young Haitian activist

“Every ten years in Haiti we have devastating cyclones. We really feel the impact of climate change in our daily lives. The big problem is drought and there is not enough water for agriculture so we feel the effects every single day. I am pleased to tell you about the reality of this Haitian world.”