Climate Change and Activists Won’t Delay, but United Nations Will

From April 9 to 11 I attended the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change interim negotiations in Bonn, Germany. This session was the first meeting of the convention since Copenhagen in December and the goal was to create a negotiating schedule for the months leading up to COP16 in Cancun. It was supposed to be everything that Copenhagen wasn’t: low-key, productive, and inclusive. I wish I could tell you that the meetings were efficient and resulted in an action plan for 2010, but it did not. In fact, by 6:30 p.m. on Sunday when I left to catch a train back home, the plenary sessions for the day had yet to begin (they were scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m.) and no decisions regarding further meetings of the UNFCCC before Cancun had been reached. Despite the lack of journalists, disgruntled Non Governmental Organizations, and activists taking to the streets in frustration, the United Nations could not even get it together to schedule some meetings and come up with an action plan for how to move forward after the failure that was Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, outside of the United Nations territory, climate change is wreaking havoc on communities and youth are struggling to understand why the United Nations feel the freedom to waste our time when climate change is happening now and will not delay no matter how many meetings do or do not happen. Last week in West Virginia, 29 employees of Massey Energy died as a result of an explosion at a mining site, the worst coal mining tragedy since 1970. On April 15, several activists attended a hearing on Capital Hill titled “The Role of Coal in a New Energy Age” and confronted dirty energy CEOs about the human and ecological implications of coal mining. And all across the nation, youth climate activists are meeting with their elected officials and informing that they need to take leadership on climate change legislation as part of the Show Me Democracy campaign. Clearly, activists and climate change are not waiting for the United Nations to act.

I find this dichotomy to be extremely frustrating because time is of the essence when it comes to climate change and I think it’s about time that the United Nations realized that. While campuses and communities are rallying around climate justice issues and people are dying as a result of dirty energy practices, the United Nations can’t even seem to set dates for climate negotiations, let alone take meaningful action on climate change to ensure a just, sustainable future for the world. Shouldn’t the United Nations be focused on working towards a fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty rather than spending three days wasting my time in negotiations that didn’t achieve anything?

-Submitted by Chelsea Howard-foley, Class of 2011

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