Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on youthclimate.org

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

Gender Gap in Youth Green Jobs

Right now, a lot of youth are fighting to stop the tar sands. A lot more are just trying to find a job. Last year, Michael Davidson and I wrote about our work to try to understand if green jobs could be youth jobs. The results were pretty good — young people were underrepresented in green job creation in the U.S., but not by much.

This year, we tried to see if the situation had changed. Turns out not much – U.S. youth probably are still getting fewer green jobs compared to other age groups and compared to how many jobs we have in the economy overall. So, pretty good news. And if investing in clean energy and climate change-fighting solutions will create more jobs than business as usual, or  more fossil fuel investments — and the green jobs research says it will — then that will probably mean more jobs for youth. Green jobs will be youth jobs.

Gender Differences in U.S. Youth Green Jobs

Young women have not benefited from green job creation as much as young men.Source: Muro, Mark, Jonathan Rothwell, and Devashree Saha. 2011. Sizing the Clean Economy. Washington: Brookings Institution. Available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Series/resources/0713_clean_economy.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2011.Source: 2012. Table 15. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, and age, Annual Average 2011. Washington: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unpublished work tables from the Current Population Survey. Received March 1, 2012.
Brookings data sums to more than 100% due to rounding.

But then we asked — which youth will have those green jobs? And here things don’t look so great.

We got pretty good data for male/female breakdown within youth jobs (at least for ages 16-24, and without data on transgender youth). When we matched this gender data up with the green jobs and youth data, we got this table. The categories are from a cool Brookings Institute clean energy jobs report, but don’t worry too much about them. Instead, check out the gold boxes at the bottom right.

In the overall economy, young men and women are almost even in how many of us have jobs — we’re 6.4% of all jobs in the economy for dudes, and 6.0% for girls (putting it together, youth have 12.4% of all jobs in the economy, compared to 10.9% of the clean energy economy).

But in the clean energy economy (at least as of 2011), male youth have about 7.5% of all the jobs, while female youth only have 3.5%. This is basically the same trend I found for all age groups in past research – men outnumber women for direct green jobs. I also found disparities across races and ethnicities, but there isn’t good data on this for just youth, so more work is need to understand where else youth green job creation might be unequal.

The good news is what we’ve said before – if investing in green jobs creates more jobs overall, this will probably mean more jobs in total for both genders. But, for now at least, men will benefit comparatively more.

Can we change this? Probably. But so far, we haven’t even been talking about the issue. Now that we know the situation, we can start figuring out solutions to help make sure green jobs are green jobs for all.

Want much more detail? Dive into the full report (don’t worry, it’s only 17 pages, and most of those are tables).

Censored: Youth Statement on Rio+20

Rio+20 Youth Statement

The following is the closing statement by the Major Group for Children & Youth in the Rio+20 negotiations. While leaders of nations were given many hours to give speeches about the outcomes in Rio, youth and other members of civil society were not allowed even 2 minutes in the closing session to give their views. Probably because leaders were afraid of what we had to say:

Major Group for Children and Youth
Rio+20 Closing Statement

I want you to imagine a generation that has been damned, imagine children deprived of a world without war, imagine a community where human beings are slaves to fellow beings and where disease and hunger are the order of the day. That is the future we warned you of in 92 and that future, is today.

If these sheets of paper are our common future, then you have sold our fate and subsidised our common destruction. Where was our voice, the voice of our children and grandchildren in this? How can you listen to them in the future if you did not show the will to create the space now?

We have one planet. Our being, our thinking, and our action should not be constrained by national boundaries but by planetary ones. You failed to liberate yourself from national and corporate self-­interest and recognise our need to respect a greater more transcendental set of boundaries.

We came here to celebrate our generation. We have danced, and dreamed, and loved on the streets of Rio and found something to believe in. You have chosen
not to celebrate with us.

You were supposed to show leadership. It was not just your job to seek consensus. It was your responsibility to commit, show ambition and to lead. You have failed.

You have worked hard to close a deal. So, if any of you think this document is the ambitious, action-­‐oriented outcome you said you wanted, please stand up.

If you are unable to stand up, then you must be unwilling to move forward. So we will move forward for you.

We know this:

We need intergenerational cooperation.
We need innovation and creativity.
We need to embrace the values of sustainability, equity, justice and respect for human rights.
We need to recognise that material resources are finite, but human potential is not.

And so,

We will create strong global institutions
We will create new paradigms of wealth and prosperity
We will act as the voice for future generations, one that you so wilfully ignored.
We will stand united beyond borders and bridge the national interests that divide us
We will implement what you have not.

We are moving forward decisively with action. We are not deterred.

A Durban Disaster Outside COP

by Madeline Kovacs

Cross-posted from Project Survival Media

On November 28, world leaders descended upon Durban, South Africa for the seventeenth annual UN climate negotiations. That night, a torrential downpour cost at least ten people their lives. Several townships around Durban were overwhelmed by flash floods, as streams swelled their banks and people were swept out of their homes by the rising water. Project Survival Media went to visit KwaMashu, one of these provinces, to find out how local residents are coping.

In a word, they aren’t. The flood and its survivors are being given almost no attention by the UN and delegates at the conference, and the people have received next to no assistance from the municipal government.

Now, in the final hours of negotiations, as COP17 draws to a close, it is unlikely that any sort of climate treaty will be agreed upon that meets the needs of the most impacted. In addition, it remains to be seen whether the Green Climate Fund, the singular high hope of many most impacted countries in desperate need of funding for adaptation measures, will be approved and launched.

Despite this incredible disappointment, many youth, NGO’s, and members of civil society are dedicated to offering what relief they can – and have launched a campaign facilitated through 350.org, with all funds going directly to the KwaMashu community. They hope to show the victims of the flash floods that despite the appearance of being ignored, there are people at these negotiations who truly understand that for many, climate change means survival or death.

This is also, as it happens, a unique opportunity to shine a light on developed countries’ inaction on pledging tangible resources for immediate adaptation, and that the United States and Saudi Arabia are holding up the one measure with potential to truly help peoples most impacted the world over (The Green Climate Fund).

As the global climate continues to warm, sudden, heavy downpours are expected to increase across South Africa, adding to the growing global tally of climate casualties. This isn’t the first not-so-funny coincidence of a climate-related “natural” disaster striking during a climate conference, and it certainly won’t be the last.

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.

Will Green Jobs Be YOUTH Jobs?

This post was co-written with Michael Davidson.

Image credit: UOPowerShift09Just in case our 5 years of swarming state capitals decked out in green hard hats, running campaigns calling for more jobs in clean energy, and vowing to only vote for candidates who support renewable energy companies hasn’t made it clear — youth really want more green jobs.

While young people have been some of the biggest advocates for green jobs, no one has really tried to answer the question of whether green jobs will be youth jobs? Will more green jobs mean more jobs for youth, or will young people miss out on the very green jobs we’ve worked so hard to create?

So far, the answer has been “we don’t know.” That’s because, despite all of the green jobs studies that have been done, none of them has really looked at the different kinds of people who actually get green jobs (one exception is for income and education level). This is especially true across different races, ethnicities, genders, and, yeah, ages. So, we set out to change that, writing the first study we know of to look at youth access to green jobs, and also the first written by youth. Continue reading ‘Will Green Jobs Be YOUTH Jobs?’

One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio

This post was written by Michael Davidson.


12-year old Severn Suzuki Delivers Youth Plea at 1992 Rio Earth SummitOne year from this week, government leaders, civil society members and representatives of the business community will meet in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet. The Earth Summit (also called Rio+20 after the first such global event in 1992) can help lead to a more prosperous world that utilizes natural resources more efficiently and responds to the needs of the most impacted communities of environmental degradation. But only if youth help write the story, and here’s why.

Rio 1992 was a watershed moment for the global environmental conscience. Treaties were signed, commissions created, and action plans drafted. Yet one of the most memorable speeches from the two-week conference was by a 12-year old girl (here’s what she’s doing now).

Now, a generation later, my generation is faced with two seemingly insurmountable challenges: the world is changing at a rate never before seen, and the current governance structures are insufficient to meet even the environmental problems of the 1970s.

Continue reading ‘One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio’

2011 Resolution – Call It “Pollution”

If you’re like me and are already:

  • tired of reading articles like this about what’s going to be hot in 2011 (here’s hoping “the planet” doesn’t make the list)
  • busy breaking those New Year’s resolutions you made

I hope we can all resolve (and actually do it) to make one thing hot in 2011 – calling that icky stuff pouring out of our economy “pollution” instead of “emissions”.

Like “greenhouse gas pollution” instead of “greenhouse gas emissions”, “carbon pollution” instead of “carbon emissions”, etc.

Without making this a big post about messaging and why it matters, I think it’s pretty easy to get that “emissions” sounds neutral or at worst just a little bad, like politely talking about someone’s fart, and “pollution”, well, tells it like it is.

Unfortunately, as the charts below show (make them yourself at Google Fight. Other variations, such as “GHG pollution”, look similarly lopsided.), most people haven’t gotten the message. IGHIH isn’t even doing as well as it could (see for yourself).

Climate terms that use "emissions" are way more common than terms using "pollution", and that's a problem for communicating how serious climate change is. Images courtesty googlefight.com

Climate terms that use "emissions" are way more common than terms using "pollution", and that's a problem for communicating how serious climate change is. Images courtesy googlefight.com

Continue reading ‘2011 Resolution – Call It “Pollution”’

U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn

Fossil of the Day award

<cross-posted on SustainUS’s Agents of Change blog and The Climate Community

The United States earned the 1st Fossil of the Day Award here at the  United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn. Nearly a week had passed where no country had acted badly enough in the negotiations to deserve a shameful Fossil, until the U.S.’s nomination.

The U.S. grabbed the title for blocking a discussion on greenhouse gas mitigation actions. The discussion would have helped build consensus on post-2012 actions to stop greenhouse gas pollution. Lack of a clean energy and climate law is pushing the U.S. to block an international discussion on future climate agreements (sound familiar?).

The discussion had been proposed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Many AOSIS countries are under extreme threat from rising sea levels and other worsening climate impacts. They also have some of the least capacity to deal with these impacts, and have contributed to climate change pollution the least of most nations.

The Fossil of the Day awards, run by the Climate Action Network (CAN), were created to highlight the countries doing the most to block progress in the United Nations negotiations.

Official press release from CAN:

Continue reading ‘U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn’

Join Us in Cancun (Spring Break wear optional)

COP16 ApplicationApplications are now available for SustainUS’s Agents of Change delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, November 29-December 10.

Applicants must be 18-26 years old at the start of the negotiations, and must be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or have been studying or working in the United States for at least six months at the time of application.

Selected applicants will join a diverse delegation of youth, including those both familiar with and new to the youth climate movement; from across the United States and beyond; including young scientists and engineers, policy specialists, grassroots activists, media and communications specialists; students, young professionals, and community volunteers; and more. We have limited, need-based scholarship money for youth from climate change-impacted communities (requires separate application, see link below).

Full delegation details and application materials are available at http://www.sustainus.org/COP16

Applications are due by 5 p.m. EDT on June 4th to agents@sustainus.org

Please help to ensure that all eligible youth have the opportunity to apply by forwarding this announcement

Kyle Gracey


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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