|© Pryner Andersen Jonas|
|A Children’s Climate Forum Ambassador adds her ‘hand’ to a giant globe bearing the names of fellow delegates.|
By Ricardo Pires
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, 30 November 2009 – As Copenhagen gets ready to receive world leaders and delegations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), from 7 to 18 December, a group of young people from 44 different countries has already started to debate the future of our planet.
Organized by UNICEF and the City of Copenhagen, the Children’s Climate Forum began on 28 November at the capital’s City Hall with 160 children from countries as varied as China, Bangladesh, Kiribati and Nigeria.
The one-hour opening ceremony, enriched by musical performances and interaction between all participants, convened with one main message: young people are taking the issue of climate change seriously and are taking action to increase global awareness.
“We must not accept the way things are,” said Countess Alexandra Christina of Frederiksborg, a patron of the UNICEF National Committee for Denmark and one of the invited speakers at the Forum. “We must stay and fight, even if the forces we are fighting are so great that they have powers to affect the winds, the waters, and the seasons. They are the forces of Climate Change. We created them ourselves, and now it is our responsibility to leash them.”
The Countess added that, while we may get discouraged by the magnitude of the problem, it is important to not lose hope. “We must think positively, and we must encourage others to take positive action along with us,” she said.
Exchange of ideas
The day started early for the child delegates. At nine in the morning, an exhibition they had helped produce opened in the main hall. It depicted their main concerns and recommendations regarding the issue of climate change. The display, open to the general public, attracted a lot of curious eyes that happened to be passing by the City Hall area in the heart of Copenhagen.
|© UNICEF Denmark/2009/Pires|
|Climate Ambassadors from 44 countries gather for a group photo at Copenhagen City Hall before rehearsing ‘It’s My World’, the official song of the Forum.|
“I expect us to be heard as one of the first countries to be affected by climate change,” said 15-year-old Mohamed Axam Maumoon, from the Maldivian delegation. “We want to be able to tell our children that we preserved the planet for them.”
After setting up the exhibition, all the children got together for the first time at the plenary hall, a charming room dating to September 1905. Facilitators and child delegates exchanged first impressions and ideas, breaking to prepare for the opening session.
Once the initial remarks and speeches were finished, a discussion began in the main hall, with all child delegates freely inviting each other to discuss climate issues related to their specific countries.
“Please ask your country to help us out. The Maldives will be very affected if the oceans start to rise,” Mohamed said to 15-year-old Daniel Christensen, from the Danish delegation. “We’ll do our best to support you,” Daniel replied.
Linking child rights to climate change
Later in the afternoon, before the plenary session to discuss the main synergies between the Children’s Climate Forum and the upcoming COP15, all delegates broke into six groups - of about 30 children each - to talk about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.
For many youth delegates the correlation between climate change and child rights was obvious. If they are forced to live in an environmentally compromised planet, most children won’t be able to enjoy their lives fully, since threats to their health and wellbeing will increase.
“Climate change causes food and water shortage in my country,” said 15-year-old Laurine Oyodah, from Kenya. “With nothing to drink, for example, many children don’t go to school because they need to search for water and have no time to study.”
What these children see and understand so clearly has yet to be grasped by some adults, who persist in damaging the planet in many contexts around the world. But with the commitment demonstrated by the young delegates attending the Forum in Denmark, it is hoped that protecting the environment will no longer be seen as just an option, but as a vital need and a matter of survival.
For more information, stories, and other materials, please visit the global website on youth and climate www.uniteforclimate.org
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