Student - November 29, 2011

'Turning up the heat'

The UN climate convention takes place in Durban in South Africa from 28 November to 9 December. The Netherlands has sent two youth delegates to represent the voice of young people. One of them is 25-year-old Liset Meddens, who graduated from Wageningen University recently.

Liset and her colleague, Gaby
Just keeping abreast of the negotiations for a new treaty (the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012) is a task in itself, says Liset. 'It is like a big circus. Many negotiations about various issues take place at the same time. You have to pick just one issue to pay attention to, or you would get nowhere.'
Liset and her colleague Gabe van Wijk are going to focus on 'capacity building', i.e. the importance of education and knowledge advancement concerning climate change. 'This begins with education. As UN youth representatives, we give guest lessons in secondary schools on climate change, the greenhouse effect and CO2 emission. Some pupils have absolutely no idea what all these are about. And if you then ask them where energy comes from, they just stare at you with glassy eyes.'
Liset does not expect many decisions to be made in Durban. 'Negotiating at this level is extremely complex; negotiators have strict mandates to follow and progress takes place only in small steps. Above all, you have to build trust, especially between countries such as America and China. They would say: if you don't do anything to reduce CO2 emission, I won't do anything either. That is so childish. Now's the time to stick your neck out.'
That's why youths should get straight to work in earnest, Liset feels. 'Young people are not tied to any mandate; we can fight for the future. Together with other youth representatives, we try to play a constructive role in the process by doing a lot of lobbying and turning up the heat a bit for the negotiators. For them, a conference like this is all in a day's work, but it's our future we are there for.'
This ex-student in International Development adds that all these are very exciting. 'It is a good experience. Pity, though, that we let off so much CO2 to get there.'
Do you want to follow Liset and Gabe at the climate conference in Durban? This can be done here.

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