By Anna Scarlette
Copenhagen, Denmark, Fri. Dec. 18, 2009: (Panos) – Eleven youth from seven Caribbean islands are among the 1,500 young people in Copenhagen intent on having their say, as world leaders struggle to come up with a global climate deal.
`As the generation that will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions that global leaders make at COP 15, we demand that these decision-makers recognise the importance and urgency of creating legally binding agreements which will secure the survival of our small island and vulnerable states,` the region`s young people said in a joint declaration issued with youth from the Pacific islands on Wednesday.
In the one-page declaration, they expressed support for the targets put forward by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which has been lobbying for more ambitious greenhouse gas emission cuts than many of the developed countries, such as the United States, are willing to make. The 43-member group has called for a legally binding agreement that will restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius while the developed countries favour 2 degrees Celsius.
`The fact is that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 350 parts per million (ppm) to ensure our survival. Two degrees is too high,` the declaration read.
According to the youth, only if these conditions are met will small islands be able to survive the devastating impact of climate change, which threatens more frequent hurricanes, longer periods of drought and increased incidents of diseases such as dengue and malaria.
`We are only asking for what is due to us — our right to our environment, our right to our homes, our right to our cultures, our identities and our right to exist,` the group said. `We the youth of the Small Island and vulnerable states feel that it is a great injustice that although our nations do not contribute largely to global emissions, we are the ones paying the greatest price.`
The Caribbean youths also called on their governments to include them more in climate change-related activities. They bemoaned the lack of engagement of Caribbean governments to facilitate their participation in these international climate talks. They said they had, for example, anticipated accreditation through their governments.
`Here is an opportunity that the government had to do nothing except support youth and get us accreditation and they didn`t,` said Trinidadian Ryan Baseanoo.
Three of them from St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines have been accredited as a part of their government delegations. The others from Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana were not as fortunate.
`They didn`t see us as being serious about coming to Copenhagen and representing. They didn`t believe in us…` said Elon McCurdy of Guyana. `On paper they support us, but in reality they are not supporting us. [Yet] whatever decision they make will affect us.`
Clearly disappointed, the young people spoke of the difficulties they had in sourcing funding and logistical support to make it to what has been billed as possibly the most important meeting on climate change with roughly 119 world leaders in attendance.
`We asked our governments initially for funding but they said they did not have any funding – except for St Lucia and St Vincent. We got our own funding and asked them to help get accredited but for most of us that proved difficult too,` said one young person who did not wish to be named.
Despite the challenges, the young people stressed how eager they were to be a part of a government initiative to tackle climate change.
`As members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network we are more than happy to work with the government. We have no animosity… We know that they are negotiating and fighting for us. We just want to help fight too,` said Roxanne Browne from Trinidad.