BREAKING: U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling Out Congress’s Failure

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security. credit: Katherine Rainone, SustainUS

Durban, South Africa – After nearly two weeks of stalled progress by the United States at the international climate talks, U.S. youth spoke out for a real, science-based climate treaty.  Abigail Borah, a New Jersey resident, interrupted the start of lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s speech to call out members of Congress for impeding global climate progress, delivering a passionate call for an urgent path towards a fair and binding climate treaty. Stern was about to speak to international ministers and high-level negotiators at the closing plenary of the Durban climate change negotiations. Borah was ejected from the talks shortly following her speech.

Borah, a student at Middlebury College, spoke for U.S. negotiators because “they cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America”, highlighting that “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.” Her delivery was followed by applause from the entire plenary of leaders from around the world.

Since before the climate talks, the United States, blocked by a Congress hostile to climate action, has held the position of holding off on urgent pollution reductions targets until the year 2020. Studies from the International Energy Agency, numerous American scientists, and countless other peer-reviewed scientific papers show that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction would cause irreversible climate change, including more severe tropical storms, worsening droughts, and devastation affecting communities and businesses across America.  Nevertheless, the United States has held strong to its woefully inadequate and voluntary commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Cancun Agreement in 2010.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah. “We need an urgent path towards a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty.”

The U.S. continues to negotiate on time borrowed from future generations, and with every step of inaction forces young people to suffer the quickly worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable and unwilling to address.

Photos are available here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainus

Video here:

http://youtu.be/XDQxg7F2j1s

And check out – U.S. Youth Say “2020: It’s too late to wait”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQVpZQ1UlKw

Full text of Abigail’s speech:

I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot.  The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long.  I am scared for my future.  2020 is too late to wait.  We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.

you must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world’s most vulnerable.

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations.  Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.

We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric.  Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait.

5 Responses to “BREAKING: U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling Out Congress’s Failure”


  1. 1 ash_anderson Dec 8th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Excellent work. At leas someone is representing us in Durban.
    Come home and let’s take Congress.

  2. 2 6thextinction Dec 8th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    hip hip hooray, abigail! you told ‘em!!! what next???

  3. 3 grellet Dec 8th, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    You go, girl!!!!!

  4. 4 Geoffrey Dec 9th, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Thankfully here is one USA girl who won’t have to apologise for being American.

    Next thing she will be ridiculed and denigrated. Her College will face defunding if they give her a pass mark in her studies.

    Jobs which are the prerogative of the big polluters will not be offered to her. The denialists will have a field day.

    The only people who will support her will be the next generation who read about her when our world has been destroyed. That generation of people will ask why nobody listened.

    All the present Congress members and even a President or two will be pushing up daisies assuming there are any daisy seeds not covered by a patent.

    The need for positive action is now before it is too late. There are none so blind as those who don’t wish to see.

  1. 1 Global Warming, Climate Change, COP17— it is the UNFCCC | World Team Now! Trackback on Dec 11th, 2011 at 7:58 pm
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About Kyle


Kyle Gracey is a Research Scientist and the Science Coordinator with Global Footprint Network. He is the past Chair and a Board Director of SustainUS: U.S. Youth for Sustainable Development, and delegate to more than 20 United Nations negotiations on climate, social development, and sustainable development. He is a Specialist with the California Army National Guard, where he trains for disaster response. He was recently an Energy and Climate Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. He also recently worked in the Speechwriting office for U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. He was a consultant with the Gade Environmental Group in Chicago. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with B.S. degrees in Ecological Economics and Biochemistry/Biophysics, where he is their only Truman Scholarship recipient, and from the University of Chicago with an M.S. in the Physical Sciences Division and Harris Public Policy School, where he was a Harris Fellow. He also investigated international development and environment issues at The American University in Washington, DC and in Brazil, Israel, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates. Kyle has worked in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as an Environmental Policy Analyst analyzing biofuels, hydrogen, congestion, and air quality, and managing research grants, and as an International Economist Graduate Intern in the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and was an Education Docent at the National Aquarium. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the youth science & technology policy organization Student Pugwash USA, where he was recently named its Vice President, and on the Treaties Task Force Chair for the Society for Conservation Biology. He is a Life Member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. He has over 150 media interviews, presentations, and public writings. Other awards include the BoardSource Emerging Nonprofit Leader award and U.S. government Presidential Management Fellowship.

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