I’m Finally Here! (I swear this first one will be the longest)

Wow. First weekend on the job as a SustainUS youth delegate to COP-16 and I couldn’t be more enthused! It seems like just yesterday that I was furiously working for hours on my delegate application the night before it was due in high hopes that perhaps I might get a shot at having such an inspiring environmental experience!

Okay, let me back up.

This journey began for me when I first heard about youth delegations attending the Conference of Parties United Nations Climate Change Negotiations (known as the “COPs”) a few years back. It seemed so incredible to imagine youth being able to have a voice at such an influential event to impact the future of global climate change. I knew I wanted to be a part of it if I could. And that is where SustainUS comes in. A completely volunteer-based youth NGO, SustainUS is seasoned at accrediting youth delegations to various UN negotiations (including those on subjects of biological diversity, social justice, and more). I was excited yet a bit intimidated applying to be a part of the SustainUS youth delegation to the 16th Conference of Parties UN Climate Change Negotiations (known as COP-16 and taking place from Nov. 29 – Dec. 10) given my relative lack of previous experience with climate change policy, but I was excited at the prospect of learning from and connecting with youth from all over the world.

Much to my delight I found out this past August about my acceptance to the SustainUS delegation and have honestly been enlightened on a regular basis. Over the past few months our delegation split up into working groups focusing on campaigns/actions, policy, and media and have been engaging in email threads and weekly conference calls (as many Conn College-ers who have walked in on me in the midst of an exciting phone discussion may remember!). And that brings us to where I am today – in Cancun, Mexico, accredited with multiple badges, having just attended the weekend long “Conference of Youth,” and choosing my business casual outfit for the first official day of COP-16 tomorrow.

While there is MUCH that I could talk about in terms of logistics, my fellow delegates, the primary policy issues of the conference and more, I will save this information to be woven into future blog posts. Instead I would like to share the amazing experience which was the Conference of Youth, a completely youth-organized conference held over the past three days, coordinated by YOUNGO (the global constituency and network of youth delegations fighting for climate justice and a promoting a stronger youth voice at the COPs). This was a jam-packed weekend full of networking, information and skills exchange, strategy planning, and climate action-themed workshops aimed at connecting youth from around the world and encouraging collaborative efforts in affecting change at COP-16.

This weekend impacted me in a number of different ways – so many so that I’m sure I will continue to realize them throughout COP-16 and into the future. First and foremost, it was extremely powerful meeting and hearing stories from youth in countries like Nepal, New Zealand, and the Netherlands – places which I know little about let alone being up to speed on specific climate change issues. I was struck by the ease through which we were all able to relate to one another and gain skills and ideas through each other’s experiences. This observation made me feel honored to be working with such accomplished and motivated youth and excited for all that we will accomplish together.

Despite that COP-16 does not officially start until tomorrow, YOUNGO is already hard at work. I have begun to immerse myself – in the most literal sense of the word – into the YOUNGO Actions and Campaigns working group which will develop and plan creative ways to show official party delegates from all over the world how much youth care about the results of these negotiations. We have an exuberant group of people representing countries spanning from Australia to Canada with a few United States youth like myself thrown into the mix as well. Even just meeting up two times during the Conference of Youth weekend, the Actions working group brainstormed some unique skits and demonstrations, discussed the importance of connecting with those in the Policy Working Group in order to support their work with strong actions, and shared ideas about actions that specific delegations have been planning to increase participation at all youth events. I was extremely impressed at the level of productivity that the working group displayed and was inspired by the undying creativity that so many of us were capable of.

All of this preparation has greatly energized me for the official start of COP-16 tomorrow – an experience which I can only imagine through stories and photos which have been shared with me by seasoned delegates. I anticipate a continued enthusiasm among the international youth and feel grateful and thrilled to be a part of it!

Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to share with you what comes next!

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] actions working group for YOUNGO (you can look over at my friend, and fellow delegate Carra’s blog for an brief explanation of YOUNGO) the fact that the creative process works, even within the […]

  2. 2

    Barry Cheslin said,

    Congratulations so far! Your energy, enthusiasm, and tremendous desire are so evident! Enjoy, be productive and creative in your pursuits. We are very proud of you. The future is in great hands!


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