As youth delegates from SustainUS, we work to represent the youth of the US climate justice movement within the United Nations' debates on climate change. In this capacity, we travel to the UN climate change negotiations every year. There, we aim to make change both in the outcome text of the negotiations and in the media narrative surrounding international climate policy. This December, we will attend COP20 in Lima, Peru, and we’re already full of ideas for what we’d like to see. Ask any one of us and we can tell you what we’re hoping for on a personal level. Our list of demands in these negotiations is as diverse as our personal backgrounds, the immediate needs of our communities, and our hopes for a more just, sustainable shared future.
But every year, progress is slow, and watching the ideas you care about called into question again and again is discouraging. And when the negotiations completely fall apart, like they did at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, it can be utterly heartbreaking. Whether you’re in the talks or watching media coverage back home, watching your home country’s negotiators often produces the same reaction: How could they do something like this?
The answer to that question is one of the reasons the People’s Climate March matters. There’s nothing wrong with the individual people representing the United States in the room at COP. They aren’t evil people, or climate deniers seeking to actively undermine the talks. They’re decent human beings just trying to do their jobs. They’re trapped in a world of severe political constraints, because everything they agree to in the context of the UN must be something that can survive back in the United States. That’s the sticking point. For the vast majority of US politicians, climate change is, at best, an issue to be avoided, and at worst, something to deny to win quick political points.
But there’s a misunderstanding on their part. The people who represent you, at the UN and in Congress, think you don’t care about climate change. And until US politicians truly believe their constituents care about climate change, the US will remain unambitious in UN talks. Continuing the current state of affairs means more precious time is passing without international action on one of the most critical issues of our time. Every day that goes by with politicians believing that their constituents don’t care how they act on climate means another day negotiators are bound by a lack of political will when they travel to COP. Without a change, political gridlock will continue to prevent US leadership on climate change.
This is why the People’s Climate March is so important. Action at the UN will not happen without outside pressure. Americans, and especially youth, who will feel the impacts of climate change more acutely than any other generation before us, must apply that pressure. We must demonstrate our commitment to this issue, and build a broader stronger movement than ever before to call for climate justice and a better world.
Come to New York and show the people who represent you how much you care about acting on climate change. Members of Congress, State Department officials, and President Obama: By the time we’re done marching, they will not doubt what we value, or question how strong our convictions are. Come if you are able, follow the March on social media, and tell your friends and family. The impacts could be global.
Emily Nosse-Leirer is leading the SustainUS delegation to COP20. You can follow the delegation at @SustainUSAgents and sustainus.org, and find her at @EmilyRNL.
The SustainUS Agents of Change program has selected the SustainUS delegation for the UN climate change negotiations this November. Known officially as the 20th session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention and the 10th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP20 and CMP10), the negotiations will be held in Lima, Peru from December 1 to 12, 2014. Delegates will work together and with international youth in advance of the conference to educate themselves and their communities, develop policy priorities, develop skills in effective lobbying, and engage the broader youth population in action related to international climate policy.
Meet the delegates after the jump!
This is a different type of post than anything we've posted before. But we think it's a critical one in our work to build a better world.
Two weeks ago, unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, a movement has grown calling for #JusticeForMikeBrown and an end to police violence inflicted upon communities of color.
We ask SustainUS members to stand in solidarity with the #Ferguson movement and call for racial justice in the United States. We believe truly sustainable development is impossible if communities of color in the United States continue to face police violence and systemic oppression.
Sustainable development is about more than stabilizing the climate or preserving biological diversity. At its core, sustainable development is a vision of a just world where all people, present and future, can meet their needs. The shooting of Michael Brown shows how far we are from achieving this vision.
Hands Up United and organizations in St. Louis are calling for two solidarity actions to stand with #Ferguson this week:
- On Monday August 25, be part of a #HandsUpWalkOut Student Walkout
- On Tuesday August 26, join a #HandsUp Rally
We ask you to join these solidarity actions and to talk with your friends and family about the #Ferguson movement and why it's so important. We also encourage you to listen and learn. This blog post by 350.org organizer Deirdre Smith explains why racial justice is integral to confronting the climate crisis. And the Don't Shoot Project puts faces on the many potential victims of further police violence in communities of color.
In addition to joining a rally, you can take action by donating to support Mike Brown's family and continued organizing on the ground in St. Louis. Hands Up United and the Organization for Black Struggle have created an excellent guide on ways you can give money to stand in solidarity with the fight in Ferguson. Please consider donating if you are able.
SustainUS still has a lot to learn about allyship, and we welcome your suggestions on how we can become a better organization working toward anti-oppression and collective liberation. For now, we are grateful to be part of the "movement of movements" working for a just and sustainable world.
-The SustainUS Steering Committee
Yesterday the Obama Administration took its largest step yet to curb dangerous carbon pollution and act on climate change. We acknowledge the President's action as a critical first step, but the Clean Power Plan is far from sufficient. The basic reality is simple: To avoid catastrophic climate impacts, we must limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius and keep over 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
The Clean Power Plan needs more ambition, particularly in its 2030 goals. SustainUS Co-Chair Matt Maiorana said: "The Administration's Climate Action Plan claims the U.S. will 'lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts,' but these weak 2030 targets fall far short of what the science says is necessary. We need real aggressive action to catalyze meaningful contributions and an acceptable outcome at COP 21."
The U.S. must show leadership by working with China, India, the European Union, and other countries to forge a bold and ambitious global agreement in 2015. This agreement should stabilize the climate and ensure a just transition for all countries, especially those most vulnerable to climate disasters.
Real action demands an energy sector with 100% decarbonized power by 2030, not policy that incentivizes shifting from coal to natural gas. SustainUS Co-Chair Leslye Penticoff stated: "We oppose the President's misleading 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, which in reality prioritizes fossil fuel extraction and export over meaningful investment in alternative energy. For President Obama to secure a strong climate legacy, much more action is needed to reduce fossil fuel subsidies and expand renewable energy capacity. We will continue building a powerful movement for climate justice until our future on this planet is secure."