‘Please be bold’: Message from youth climate strikers to world leaders at COP25

CBC Kids News • Published 2019-12-04 09:00

Youth movement promises to challenge leaders

Young climate strikers are sending a clear message to Canadian leaders who are attending the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain, this week: Act now.

In an open letter from various branches of Climate Strike Canada, youth are urging leaders to commit to reducing emissions by 60 per cent (instead of 30 per cent) below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are the last people in a position of power to have the possibility to allow us to avoid an unprecedented global catastrophe,” the letter reads. “Please be bold.”

Lea Ilardo is representing Canadian youth at the two-week conference, which started on Monday.

She’s part of a group that is meeting daily with the Canadian delegation to follow the negotiations as they happen.

A woman stands in front of a sign that says COP25 Chile Madrid 2019

Lea Ilardo is attending the COP25 conference as an observer. World leaders, climate activists, Indigenous people and others are attending the conference to find solutions to fight climate change. (Submitted by Lea Ilardo)

“We can influence a bit and tell our opinion,” said the 20-year-old student from Quebec.

Climate strikers will also be watching from Canada.

“The youth really has been waking up for a year and so this is really like the COP that youth is going to be following,” said Alienor Rougeot, a university student who has been leading the climate strikes in Toronto.

“The fact that we’ve been in the streets increases the pressure and maybe just gives leaders … the legitimacy to be bolder,” she added.

A woman with a megaphone marches in the street alongside 2 kids and other climate strikers

Alienor Rougeot, with megaphone, leads a group of climate strikers through the streets of Toronto on Black Friday. (Dina Dong/The Varsity)

Why another climate conference?

If you thought we just had a climate change conference, you’re not wrong.

Greta Thunberg travelled to New York on a boat for the UN Summit in New York in September.

That meeting was in large part meant to continue the conversation and raise awareness.

COP25 is more about action and following up on COP conferences of the past.

Back in 2015, in Paris, the world agreed on emissions targets.

Lea Ilardo, second from right, speaks alongside youth activists from Switzerland, South Korea and Australia at COP25, demanding world leaders take action to fight climate change. (Submitted by Lea Ilardo)

In Poland in 2018, they agreed, for the most part, on how to reach those targets.

Now they need to help figure out how countries can meet those targets while keeping their economies strong.

Members of the Canadian delegation will meet with other countries to come up with concrete plans.

 

What does COP 25 mean? COP stands for Conferences of the Parties. The parties are the 197 countries that meet every year since they all signed the first agreement to work together on climate change, called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The number 25 refers to the fact that this is the 25th conference to be held since the first summit in Berlin, Germany, in 1995.

Canada has a ways to go

Ilardo said the Canadian government often appears to be doing a lot to fight climate change, but in fact, little is being done.

“Canada comes across as a world leader [on climate change action], but in reality, we’re one of the biggest polluters,” she said.

A sign reads: 143 million people being climate migrants by 2050 is not a change.

Slogans urging leaders to act line the walls of subway station outside the convention centre at COP25. (Submitted by Lea Ilado)

Several reports have recently indicated that Canada is not on track to meet its targets and that Canada produces the most greenhouse gas emissions per person of any country in the G20 (the 20 richest countries in the world).

Ilardo added that by meeting with negotiators, youth activists can hold them to account.

“They’re negotiating, and we know what’s going on,” she said, adding that young people will take to the streets if they feel let down.

A spokesperson for the Canadian delegation said in a statement to CBC Kids News that climate action is a priority and “while we have made a lot of progress over the last four years, we know that more work needs to be done.”

The government promised, among other things, to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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