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Youth climate change conference advocates for economic diversity

Teaching and supporting youth to advocate for good governance when it comes to managing climate change is one of the central focus of the PowerShift Alberta conference at the University of Alberta this weekend.

'Young people deserve better and we’re willing to stand up and demand better'

Organized by youth for youth, the PowerShift Alberta conference was held at the University of Alberta this weekend. (CBC)

For Kiki Wood, there's no better time for youth to stand up against climate change, and Alberta is where their voices need to be heard.

Wood, who is director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, says teaching and supporting youth to advocate for good governance when it comes to managing climate change is one of the central focus of the PowerShift Alberta conference at the University of Alberta this weekend.

Hosted by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, the three-day conference began in the United States in 2007. Alberta's economic dependence on oil and gas and the provincial and federal government's new climate change and carbon tax strategy, makes the province  ground zero for establishing a green future, Wood said.

"We need to be moving into a new direction, moving into a community based, community driven, community owned renewable energy," Wood said.

"What better place to send that message than to come here to where it all happens and say, 'young people deserve better and we're willing to stand up and demand better.' 
Kiki Wood, director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, said young people expect more from their government when it comes to managing climate change. (CBC)

The conference began Friday and featured sessions focused on social justice and advocacy, Indigenous issues, campaign organization, and the economics of sustainability.

The conference is geared towards youth aged 16 to 30, but welcomed all ages.

The Alberta NDP government's role in managing climate change was a recurring topic, Wood said. While she said it was great to see a climate change plan come out of Alberta, it wasn't completely satisfactory.

It lacked consultation with First Nations communities and exemptions are still being handed out to big polluters, she said.

Wood is also is opposed to the narrative that pipelines can pay for climate actions, and said going forward, she expects more from both levels of government, including a focus on diversifying the economy.

"The Canadian government committed in Paris to a limit of safe warming that's well below 1.5 degrees. And we're not going to get there, we're not going to be able to meet those global commitments unless we start now," Wood said.

A time of change in Alberta

Bronwen Tucker, a PowerShift Alberta organizer, said that with the change in politics both federally and provincially, it's an exciting time to be a climate change activist in Alberta right now.

"In 2016, there is a real potential for change in Alberta because of the big picture things that are changing. The price of oil is low and it's a great time to make decisions that can change our energy over to renewables," she said.

Tucker said youth play a key role in helping make these decisions and shaping the future of their province, as they're focused on justice and inequality issues tied to climate change.

"In terms of talking about climate change, if you're not talking about all the social issues that come with that, all the intersections with race and so many other issues, I feel like you're not really getting to the root of the problem," Tucker said.

"I think sometimes they don't seem related, but part of the goal of the weekend is to … connect the dots for people, because they're not always connected in the best way."

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