Canadian Youth

Jane Goodall observing a Canadian Youth Delegation demonstration | photo by Megan Nourse

For a self-dubbed Minister of Youth, Justin Trudeau has yet to really impress the Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) at UN climate negotiations in Paris. 17 young Canadians are in Paris trying to have their voices heard by the government and negotiators.

In the first week of the conference, the CYD was denied a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau while he was in Paris, but that has not slowed down their motivation to be part of the climate change negotiations.

“The message we’re trying to get across is that we’re not here to be bright youthful faces in your pictures, we’re here to have our voices and our requests actually meaningfully heard,” said delegate Sophie Harrison. Though they couldn’t get a meeting with the Prime Minister, they were offered the opportunity to take selfies with him, which Harrison said was nowhere near what the CYD was looking for.

It’s not all disappointment for the CYD though, Harrison says there are many ways that Canadian negotiators are being transparent with delegates about the progress of Canada’s role in negotiations.

One of the areas the CYD is focused on is supporting language on the rights of indigenous peoples in the binding part of the agreement. But they are still looking for clarity and more solid commitments that Canada will be decarbonized by 2015.

“To us being meaningfully heard and meaningfully listened to doesn’t just mean showing up for a meeting, it definitely doesn’t mean offering us a selfie. What it means is taking the type of action the climate crisis requires and we definitely still haven’t seen that,” Harrison said.

Wednesday, the CYD held a “retirement party for fossil fuels” complete with balloons and wine to toast. With the Trudeau government’s announcement of committing to doing their part to prevent the earth from warming 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, most of Canada’s oil must remain in the ground. Currently the agreement being negotiated in Paris has the goal of preventing 2 degrees warming as was decided at COP16 in Cancun. However scientific research has demonstrated that to preserve the world’s most vulnerable countries, warming cannot go beyond 1.5 degrees

At 21 years old, Harrison has grown up in the age of climate change — global governments have been negotiating action and mitigation for literally her entire life. Bringing young people into negotiations is a step, at COP21 four CYD members were given a spot on Canada’s negotiating team.

Trudeau’s and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna’s “Canada is Back” statement at the start of COP21 made headlines across the country. The CYD want to make sure that Canadians see beyond that and pay attention to the government’s concrete actions in climate change mitigation.

Canada may be back to the negotiating table, but we still have the Conservative government’s pledge for emissions reductions (INDC), which has been deemed inadequate for preventing global warming further than 2 degrees (The Trudeau government has now committed to a 1.5 target).

Young Canadians will inherit the political pathway the country is on. So whether we curb or expand fossil fuel use, continue violating indigenous rights and do not step up to help the vulnerable countries most affected by the climate crisis, for the Canadian youth, everything is at stake. Though Canada’s presence at COP21 is better than the past decade, better is not good enough.

“It’s not just good enough to be here and to bring a bigger delegation. We need to see real action from our leaders and real leadership and bravery on a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels. I don’t think the Liberal government is there yet,” Harrison said.

Follow the CYD’s last few days at COP21 here.

The Canadian Youth Delegation celebrating the retirement of fossil fuels photo by Megan Nourse

Megan is A\J's editorial manager, a lover of journalism, and graduate of the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. 


If you liked this article, please subscribe or donate today to support our work.

A\J moderates comments to maintain a respectful and thoughtful discussion.
Comments may be considered for publication in the magazine.
  • RT : Check out this issue of Alternative Journal where I'm a guest editor for 'InvestsInYou'. I hope this issue will ins… 1 day 18 hours ago
  • Environmental journalist Alexandra Scaman dives into a world of turbulent waters - investigating water equity issue… 6 days 11 hours ago