While those of us here at St. Mary’s are busy writing papers, working projects, and studying for exams, our world leaders are busy at the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I would love to report that our world leaders are being super productive and that these negotiations are leading us towards a fair, ambitious, and binding international climate treaty that adequately addresses the needs of the citizens of the world, not just of the Global North.
However, that is not the case and the United States is largely to blame for this, because although China may have overtaken us as the largest carbon emitter in the world we still boast the highest per capita carbon footprint worldwide.
Furthermore, our elected officials and negotiators are actively blocking progress on both an international climate treaty and a domestic carbon bill. As a member of the Millennial Generation (the generation that is going to be responsible for cleaning up this mess) I find this unacceptable and encourage our leaders to step up, stop pandering to corporate fossil fuel interests and start protecting the future of our planet and its residents.
As anyone who has taken an environmental studies course can tell you, climate change is real, it’s already happening, and it does not respect national borders. The Maldives, a small island nation located in Asia, is purchasing land to which the nation’s 300,000 citizens can relocate because if nothing is done about climate change and sea levels continue to rise the entire country will be underwater.
Clearly the threat of climate change is not distant any longer. Yet Congressmen such as Senator James Inhofe continue to deny the validity of climate change science. As a youth leader who is working towards a clean, just energy future for the planet, I find this appalling and have a question to ask of all my Senators and Representatives.
If youth from around the world can believe in and work for a future free of fossil fuels, why can’t you at least stop taking orders from corporate polluters and acknowledge that climate change is a human issue that requires strong international action?