The following was part of a press briefing at the US Climate Action Network Organized press conference in Pittsburgh, USA coinciding with the G-20 Summit. International youth gathered together to voice concerns over the need to “green” the economic recovery of the planet–high on the agenda of the world leaders gathered there. Youth Press Advisory
Two years ago at the UN Climate negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, I happened to have the opportunity to attend as a member of the US youth delegation (because I was studying in the US). Upon arriving at the negotiations and after countless hours spent submitting our policy proposals to the UN Convention I realized that there is a growing and vibrant youth movement dedicated to the cause. These youth are actively trying to influence the negotiations. I became conscious of the fact that there were not any Indian youth in this growing international youth caucus present on the sidelines of the conference. I decided to introduce myself to the Indian Government negotiators as a “youth representative.” I was met with a cold and blank stare and then asked, “youth? Shouldn’t they have the same view as their elders?” I knew then that my life would never be the same again.
To be fair, I respect my elders and I know that there are many out there who are on the “far side of fifty” (age 50 that is) who have worked hard to make the world a better place. Generations have come and gone and nearly all of them have had a defining issue to tackle. My generation, labeled the “silent generation” by Thomas Friedman, is caught behind our computers and on facebook, having struggled to come to terms with the seemingly perfect world with an uncertain future of which we are not in control.Many in the climate movement are aware of the political deadlock between developed and developing nations over the issue of climate equity and historical emissions and responsibilities. Though we claim to be talking climate for the sake of future generations, nothing that we are doing is actually putting future generations in a better environment than that enjoyed by generations passed. So let’s get serious about generational equity because those in control sure aren’t.
While the climate crisis looms, we are currently consumed by a financial crisis that has gripped the planet.Just as financial institutions played with the public’s money, we are playing with the global commons that is our climate. We already know the impacts of unabated borrowing of money that does not exist. Can we play the same game with the lives of future generations as we borrow for our unsustainable growth today?
Global leaders are meeting at the summit in Pittsburgh and on the agenda is rebuilding the planet’s economy and hopefully, cooling down the planet. Let us turn this economic crisis into an opportunity of global proportions and usher a new era of genuine, sustainable development. I come from a young country—75% youth–that is facing many challenges. My own ancestral home in the desert sands of western Rajasthan only received electricity a year ago—electricity promised to my grandfather 25 years ago. Yet it is a land bursting with opportunity. Sure enough there is an army of youth in India that are ready to take that stand and that are dreaming of a clean, green country – one which will take this opportunity to build a green economy and support the growth of a green jobs movement. With 500 million people still in the dark, there are millions to be trained in sustainable energy enterprises alone. Let us not forget that this is a country that has half a million engineers graduating annually—a potentially potent force to engineer the country into the paragon of sustainable development.
While youth are 48% of the global population they are not an official part of the negotiation process at the international level. Though many of us are silent, many more are launching revolutions to transform our local communities. I was transformed by my experience in Bali and knew that in the labyrinth process of the negotiations all sense of urgency—of our future—is lost. This hopelessness was transcended through the creation of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) which has grown in waves and caught the attention of young people, civil society, companies and the same government that questioned the role of youth on the topic two years ago. Similarly youth movements for the cause are rising across the planet—daring governments to break the deadlock. We envision a future which ensures the survival of all peoples and all nations. The debate is old and it is time for some fresh air. A bail-out for the planet is a bailout we will not regret.