Youth across Canada plan for united front at international climate meeting

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Tria Donaldson fights back tears when she reflects on what her future might hold if something drastic isn't done to stop climate change.
She worries about a future shaped by uncertainty over whether crops will grow or what the weather may do. She sees an ever narrowing window during which we can still turn back the clock.
She thinks about how many of the young people who will bear the brunt of the consequences of global warming can't even vote for the leaders who are making key choices now.
"For me and for a lot of the young people I work with, it's like we're fighting for our lives," she says.
The 24-year-old activist is one of about 30 young people from Canada headed as observers to a United Nations conference on climate change to be held this December in Copenhagen. More than 190 countries will use the meeting to try to pound out a new worldwide climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
Donaldson says it's essential that youth be there to make sure Canada's government is held accountable.
"I think we really need to start taking climate change seriously and Copenhagen's just the most meaningful way that our government can commit to action, not just domestically but also internationally."
The Canadian government has recently been very lax on making climate change commitments, says Laura Read, 23, another concerned citizen who will attend the conference.
She said she feels "really frustrated and impatient" watching federal politicians hold up international agreements, and she hopes they can be convinced to change their tune.
When it comes to environmental activism, the majority of participants are younger, said Graham Saul, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada.
At huge international meetings like the one to be held in Copenhagen, youth usually have an advantage in getting politicians to meet with them, he said.
Whether they can be effective in changing policy remains to be seen.
"We really rely on youth groups to speak candidly and to be able to engage politicians in a way that is really about their future and the future of their children, to be born, in terms of this issue," said Saul, 38.
"They bring a degree of energy to the issue that really helps move things along, so they're a real force at the negotiations."
The youth delegation will be able to attend most of the meetings in Copenhagen and to connect with like-minded young people from around the world. They also may be able to submit statements to the politicians who are actually making the decisions.
International youth are expected to play a big role in the conference. MTV and international music stars including Moby are running a media blitz in Europe leading up to December to urge young people to get involved.
Saul said many young people are engaged because they've been raised taking the issue of climate change for granted, and don't want any more debate.
"They know it's a problem and they want to see action and in their entire lives they've watched their governments, and in many ways so-called adults, fail to deal with the problem."
Young people in Canada are also trying to make sure their voices are heard before the conference.
The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition is hosting a conference in October in Ottawa that will be attended by about 1,500 youth from around the world. They'll use the opportunity to start approaching MPs to tell them effective action is needed now.

Organizations: United Nations, Kyoto Protocol, Climate Action Network Canada Canadian Youth Climate Coalition

Geographic location: Canada, Copenhagen, Europe Ottawa

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