Youth Should Lead Fight Against Climate Change

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Youth demanded a chance to help fight climate change (Photo by Matthew McDermott/flickr)

Youth need to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, as they will be the ones suffering the brunt of floods, droughts, increasing sea levels and other impacts of massive proportions if the world fails to keep temperature increase at below 2 degrees Centigrade, participants and speakers of all age at the International Youth Forum on Climate Change in Jakarta agreed.

“You cannot depend on the old generation because they grew up in a world where development means exploiting natural resources and fossil fuel is the only known source of energy,” said Emil Salim, adviser to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The 80-year-old former minister for the environment was addressing a gathering of about 100 young people from 17 countries.

Many environmentalists are disappointed with the slow progress of global negotiations on climate change as countries failed again to agree to commit to binding emission cut targets in Cancun last year. As temperature rises – 2010 tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record – the need to come up with a climate change agreement to be applied after the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012 becomes more and more urgent, to the point of burning out.

“Not enough people want to do something,” said Chandra MacDonald, an Australian who currently lives in Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia. “People will just put (environmental concerns) at the back of their mind until something big and bad happens,” said the high school student.

Rachmat Witoelar, Executive Chairman of Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change, appealed to the youth to push their governments to adhere to the “common but differentiated responsibility” principle. Developed countries should contribute more funds and technology to the climate change fight and agreed to deeper emission cuts, he said.

To allow harmony with nature, the world needs to change the course of development and move away from fossil-fuel driven way of living, Salim said. This will require a huge amount of funds and a lifestyle change that undoubtedly a lot of people will find difficult. Riding a bicycle to get to work in Jakarta to cut gasoline use is tricky with the number of public buses, spewing thick black exhaust, zooming through the streets. Shutting air conditioner in the Jakarta Convention Center may get the participants in their suits to choke from heat.

Still, youth can start making changes that at least would help preventing current situation from worsening, said Ediola Pashollari, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), who helped organize the forum with Indonesian National Youth Council. The role of the old generation is just as important as they are now in the seats that make the decisions that will affect planet Earth.

“It’s something that all should act upon,” she said. “It’s nice to work together, as everyone is affected (by global warming) anyway.”

The forum participants are scheduled to go on separate field trips in the next few days to review various aspects of environmental concerns, namely to Kapoposan Ocean Park in South Sulawesi, Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan and Komodo island in Nusa Tenggara. At the end of the trip, they will reconvene to form recommendations, which will be submitted to the governments of WAY’s 120 member countries and U.N. organizations.

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