Y Climate Action to represent YMCA/YWCA at UN Climate Conference

Date: 29 November 2011

The future is ours. But the decisions that will shape it are not. As the world’s largest and oldest youth organisations, present in over 130 countries worldwide, the YMCA and YWCA represent a great amount of the world’s youth. That youth needs to make itself heard.

Every year the United Nations hosts a global climate meeting to discuss and agree on solutions on the issues of climate change and global warming, and this year the conference will take place in Durban, South Africa, from the 28th of November until the 9th of December. Before the 2009 climate conference that was held in Copenhagen, the group Y Climate Action was formed through the Swedish YMCA/YWCA, so that a delegation could be sent to represent the YMCA and the YWCA at that meeting, to make the voice of organisation heard.

Together with many other youth organisations, Y Climate Action lobbied intensively. For Copenhagen there were great hopes that a new international environmental agreement would be reached, as the previous Kyoto Protocol from 1997 soon will expire. However, amid a global economic recession, world leaders disappointed. Focus was kept on short term economic goals instead of long term climate change, without the understanding that in the long run, if the latter is not fixed, the former will not matter. Despite the meagre result of the 2009 meeting, Y Climate Action sent another delegation to the following year’s conference in Cancún in Mexico, and even though there agreement was reached among world leaders to continue to endorse the Kyoto Protocol and targets of a maximum temperature increase was set, none of these goals were legally binding. On states, only the Kyoto Protocol is binding and it is therefore of utmost importance that before it expires in 2012, a new agreement will be reached.

Durban will be the last chance to achieve this, and Y Climate Action will be there, representing the World Alliance of YMCA’s and World YWCA, pushing for not only a binding agreement, but one that is ambitious enough to actually tackle the environmental challenges the world faces. There must be a shift in priorities among world leaders. We will be at the conference to show them that such a change is what young people wish and stand for, but all over the world where people have the power to affect their governments it is of the greatest importance that politicians are shown that we want climate change on the agenda. If we seek global solutions, we must push both nationally and internationally.

Young people around the world are calling for climate change not only because it is their future that is at stake, but also because they have grown up in a time of increasing environmental awareness, whereas the current generation grew up with the ideas of promoting, above all else, economic growth – ideas that are still enormously influential, but ideas that must be incorporated into models that promote, above all else, green thinking. The issues of climate change are fundamental, because, as all climate scientists agree on, if the current status quo is maintained, we are likely heading for catastrophe. Then, economic growth will matter little, if we are left with nothing that can actually grow.

Young people are realising this, and we hope that in Durban, we will be able to show world leaders that we are also willing to make change happen, to see it through. Before the conference we will briefly join over a hundred other YMCA members from Norway and from all over Africa, that have travelled from Kenya down to Durban, campaigning along the way.

By Marcus Gustafsson, Sweden