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Day 1: Conference of Youth

November 29, 2014

Saturday 29th November, 1.00am now in Lima, Peru.

I could have shared with you stories of the taxi ride in the morning, or my thoughts on the COY training session and skill sharing workshop that I attended, or my experience at Huaca Pucllana, a great clay pyramid in the middle of the Miraflores district.. but I choose to share with you in this blog post two things; 1) Inaugration of COY10 2) YOUNGO

Inaugration of COY10

Before the start of the morning session, there was an announcement for the international youth participants to sit at the back of the auditorium. The possibility then was that the morning session was going to be done in Spanish. I moved from the third row, all the way to the corner at the back. There were possibly 40 other non-Spanish speakers sitting at the back with me. Behind me, a volunteer translator, Natalia, was on standby to do her work. There will be no equipment, but people whispering to you the English version of what will be said.

Now, you have to understand, in my preparation for COY, I had to regularly visit the Facebook page which was mostly done in Spanish. Granted, majority of the people who came were mostly from the Latin American countries and most communication was done in Spanish. Granted, the COY organiers whom I had communicated with like Daniela, Marysol and Andrea had all generously answered my queries in English. But here I was, someone who has travelled 44 hours all the way from Singapore to Lima only to be told to sit at the back of the large auditorium. I think I felt slightly unhappy then.

A few minutes later, I was surprised to see Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) walking into the auditorium, approaching the stage. For some reason I was not expecting her there, but hey, she was. Along with her were some other speakers whom I could not recognise. And when Christiana Figueres stood at the podium, she firmly said, she will be speaking in English. Disappointments and moans were heard across the hall, but this Singaporean smiled and paid attention quite well. The speakers after her spoke in mostly English as well.

Speakers at Conference of Youth (COY10) Inaugration Ceremony

Speakers at Conference of Youth (COY10) Inaugration Ceremony

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
(I recorded this 7.5 mins speech and transcribed what I could).

Fundamentally, what you will be witnessing over the next two weeks is the equivalent, of beginning to move a huge ship onto a new direction. ..on a huge ship, you know that that is not something that occurs overnight.. when a captain actually has to change the direction of the ship that is actually not slow, and a very very small change in the ship actually moves the ship in the long term, on a very different course.

So that is the challenge that we have.. We know that we as a human species we are absolutely on the wrong course, with respect to our energy use, with respect to our land use, and it is already having huge impacts. We know that we have to change that course. It is not a course that we need to change because we have to change it, but because.. and it is about changing the model of development that we have had over 150 years and frankly none of us here have been alive for 150 years. That only tells how difficult it is because we are changing very very deeply rooted patterns of production and consumption.

So out of Lima you will begin to see that the course is beginning to shift. Beginning to shift. And what is born here in Lima must be taken to Paris towards what that course has shift. The problem for you all is that that is the contribution our generation is making to you. We will begin to shift the course.

But let me just walk you through that course so you know what exactly the challenges are for you when you get to make all the decisions.. very soon. We need to get to the point where we are at the peak of global emissions. Over the next few years, peaking global emissions. We need to reverse the trend of emissions because we are probably going up. We have to reverse the trend to begin to the prime. And we have to get to climate neutrality by the second half of the century. Now, all of you will still be alive in the second half of the century and you are going to be the test of whether we were actually able to begin to change that course.

But that means that you then need to continue the work that we started here to ensure that pattern gets to climate neutrality. You will have the responsibility once we shift that course. You have the responsibility to live a low carbon life, which we didn’t. That’s the responsibility because it means changing everything about the way we live. You will live a low carbon life and actually I think it’s a very very fun kind of life but that to be able to take the agreement that are put out there at international level and taken down to the point where it is actually affecting and benefiting every single life, your life, that is your challenge. Now we will move the ship a little bit. We will change the course.

But my dear friends, it is up to you, to assure that we are going to get to a low carbon economy, to a low carbon society, and you will live low carbon lives. A very very exciting prospect. And one that is fundamental, fundamental, especially to the most vulnerable populations around the world. Because if we don’t all live low carbon lives, their rights are hugely impacted.

So the only way that we can protect the welfare of the most vulnerable is by us living the low carbon lives. So my friends, whatever that means for you, because each of you will have to decide what that means.

But I will suggest that these few days, you do two things. First you certainly follow these negotiations and all their complexities around each of the topics you are most interested in, but also fundamentally begin to think how are you going to take the leadership, once all these happens around the table, how are you going to take the leadership how  your generation to the low carbon lives that we must all take. Because we’re not living that yet. And I’m getting an incredible amount from my daughter who is always standing in the shadow, “Mum, that’s enough water.” Or they will ask me “Do you have to use the car when you do that, or can you just use the bicycle?” Well that’s because you the next generation are so much more aware of new things that will make a difference. We need to make a difference.

So I am now very hopeful that we going to move into renewable energy as the main source of electricity generation. I am very hopeful that we will be much more responsible..

But I am very more hopeful not just about the big picture, but about individual picture that each of you will be able when you’re 58, which is my age now, to stand up and say, “Yes, we took the legacy from the previous generation. We took what they did but we have actually moved the world to a low carbon society. And that my friend, is my friend, that is exactly your responsibility and the legacy that you will have toward your children.

So I thank you very very much for everything that you are doing already now. I thank you for being students, such really true students of climate change negotiations. You have put enormous amount of energy into understanding what we are dealing with. But above all, I thank you for your commitment to not only you becoming leaders, but bring your generation with you into a very very stable and prosperous low carbon world.

So all … to you. Keep on going on. And do remain impatient with us OK. Because impatience is very very good. So do the man of action here but also be aware of responsibilities you’re carrying. So we can do this better. We are going to do this. I know that we must.. I know that we can address climate change. But above all, I know that with your help, we will all address climate change.

Thank you.

I counted. The term “low carbon” was mentioned 10 times.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Otalora. Minister of Environment of Peru
(Some notes)

  • You are the decision makers of the future. We are optimistic you can do it.
  • Follow the negotiation process based on two principles; sense of urgency and ambitions.
  • Youths can do 4 things to act effectively against climate change.
    1) Information
    2) Awareness
    3) Ambition
    4) Action
  • You are the generation affected by the effects of climate change. You are also the generation who can change the world.
  • You should maintain the idealism. But also recognise that each countries have different problems; social, economic, political.
  • We should build a bottom up approach.
  • We need to build a consensus.
  • Have idealism, but also be aware of reality.
  • You are the bridge between government, civil society and indigeneous people.
  • Keep walking. (LOL moment for me. LOL with you if you recognise this tagline).

COY Organisers, Dean of University, Holly Elizabeth, one of My World Youth Ambassador and Mauro Mauritani, European Union delegate to Peru (I hope I got this right) also spoke.


I took nearly 2 hours to transcribe CF’s speech I think I don’t need to say anything much about this except that.. from my understanding, COY is largely driven by YOUNGO. I was in the YOUNGO workshop in the late afternoon and left before it was completed. As a first timer to COY, seeing what happened at the workshop, and reading comments on FB on how things were run, or why CF was invited, I have to say at this point I have mixed feelings about COY and YOUNGO. A part of me is still wishing things were different.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2014 4:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Life in Transition and commented:

    Saturday afternoon read: Day 1: Conference of Youth

    Highlight of this blog post is Christiana Figueres’ 7.5 mins speech. She mentioned “low carbon” 10 times.

    #Singapore #Youth #Delegation to #COY10 and #COP20


  1. Day 1: Conference of Youth | Life in Transition
  2. Lastrina’s Thoughts on COP20 So Far | ECO @ COP

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