‘We feel more like bystanders,’ Youth at COP24 cry out as they call for active participation in negotiations
Youth protestors at UN Climate change summit in Katowice. By Fredrick Mugira

Water Journalists Africa

Fredrick Mugira

This month, as delegates from more than 190 governments attended UN climate talks in the Polish city of Katowice to uphold the Paris Agreement and respond to the emergency of the climate crisis, a section of youth at the summit cried out that they had been “left out” of negotiations.

Delegates at the UN climate change talks in Katowice adopted guidelines for implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

As the negotiations went on, Brianna Lovato, 21, a student from Minnesota, USA said youth had not been substantially involved in these talks.

“At this COP right now, we feel more like bystanders but at a youth COP we would be more active,” said Lovato, suggesting that youth should have their own COP.

Organized by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of Parties, commonly referred to as COP is the governing body of the Climate Change. It was adopted in 1992 to battle climate change. Parties to this convention have been meeting every year since 1995 to beef up the global response to the threat of climate change.

Ineze Umuhoza Grace (L) and Mukayiranga Eva Peace (R) from Rwanda at the UN climate change summit in Katowice. Photo by Fredrick Mugira

Ineze Umuhoza Grace, a fresh graduate from university of Rwanda, in Rwanda said they felt let down by the COP organisers as she also called for a climate change summit for youth.

“It won’t be a COP but it could be a youth gathering, a global climate change youth summit,” says Ineze.

Mallory Jarri 20, also a university student from USA, said involvement of young people in Katowice UN climate Change negotiations would mean that “youth voices are heard and taken more seriously by officials.”

Mukayiranga Eva Peace, a student from Rwanda said youth negotiators at COP would have influenced the outcomes to favor future generations.

“Many young people who come here are not decision-makers,” she said.

Some youth that attended COP24 in Katowice

Emannule Ntawukuriryayo, 24, from Rwanda, said it was vital to involve youth as part of decision-makers at Katowice UN climate summit because youth of today is the future of tomorrow and they must “secure” their world now.

“Most effects of climate change are not for now. They will come in the future. And the future is not for the old people,” maintained Ntawukuriryayo.

“As youth we have to be actively involved so that in future, we protect our countries.”

Youth protesters at one of the climate change protests staged inside the venue of the summit called for more action from governments to battle global warming as they sang late Michael Jackson’s ‘they don’t care about us,’ song.

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.