YOUNGO (the Youth Constituency) Press Conference


YOUNGO Press Conference in COP23 Bonn Germany

Bonn, 10th November 2017 – The working groups of YOUNGO present their positions on the COP23 and the way forward towards the upcoming negotiations. The Thirteen Edition Conference of Youth will also present the outcome statement of the conference along with suggestion and recommendation for the COP 23. YOUNGO is the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC; we are the young people at the UN climate talks. Constituencies, like youth, women, business, trade unions, farmers, and indigenous peoples, have a formal voice in the UNFCCC process and can deliver interventions (speeches). YOUNGO consists of various organizations and individuals who identify as youth who often meet at the conference of parties and are active throughout the year as well. Representing the largest demographic of global population, they are invited and always make submissions for youth during negotiations.

Following are the working groups of YOUNGO for COP23 delivering their statements on where they stand.

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), Adaptation, Agriculture, Mitigation, Conflict of Interest, Finance, Gender, Health, Human Rights, Loss and Damage, Oceans, and the Thirteen Edition Conference of Youth above are groups that are actively involved in the negotiation process for COP23 as the voice of the Youth that works in the field climate change. The objective of these opportunities is to empower young leaders, help propel youth voices into the global dialogue, as the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC embracing mutual understanding and respect of the world, and drive people toward the better climate action and sustainable development.

Attached below the statements of each working groups.


YOUNGO Working Groups

Action for Climate Empowerment

The working group on Action on Climate Empowerment (ACE) was already formed before COP21 in Paris and since then a lot of work has been done. We recently conducted an analysis on the incorporation of ACE in the NDCs. This analysis has shown that only 32 percent of Parties included any mention of ACE and only 18 percent include Youth. Considering this lack of focus, we want to emphasize the importance of education, transparency, and enhanced opportunity for meaningful youth participation in the negotiation process.

This week the ACE working group has been connecting ACE focal points from different parties and arranged a workshop for networking, but not all Parties have appointed a national Focal Point on ACE yet. Since focal point is the key person in a country to conduct ACE, we urge every country to appoint a focal point.

There has been good progress in the SBI negotiations in these days as for the first time ACE was included in the agenda. This is encouraging, but is only the beginning. We strongly believe that ACE should not been considered isolated from other negotiation issues, but should instead be used as a tool for an integrated solution in addressing all aspects of the Paris Agreement.

Adaptation WG

Climate change impacts certain groups more than others. We want to highlight this inequitable distribution of destruction and call for adaptation efforts to include these groups in the solution. We also want to thank and to celebrate Fiji for their presidency and their focus on inclusive dialogue. Effective adaptation can only come from listening to and working alongside local communities.

Special attention should be paid to capacity building to ensure that adaptation knowledge is not owned by the few but instead spread as widely as possible through community agency. Efforts need to be based on local potentials and opportunities instead of applying regionally standardised solutions. Especially with regard to young people and vulnerable communities, Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) needs to be incorporated and strengthened in capacity building for climate adaptation.

Furthermore, Adaptation needs to be gender-sensitive, which includes making the voices of those who do not define as men heard. Similarly, LGBTQ communities need to be heard and respected in adaptation processes. Finally, we want to ensure that the youth voice is given due weight as we will inherit the Earth and we want a nice one.

Since the Adaptation fund was created there have been substantial improvements, however many reports consider them not sufficient. The Green Climate Fund, which is meant to collect $100 billion per year by 2020 is currently only at $57 billion.

Furthermore, many smaller nations have had difficulty accessing the fund. The Adaptation Working Group calls for the hitting of the target in a timely manner and increased ambition to ensure that the amount of money that countries and islands that are directly affected by Climate Change actually need can be provided. There also needs to be more transparency around the fund and greater accessibility for groups who wish to benefit from it.

When discussing adaptation and climate policy, forests cannot be left out. Forests play a decisive role in mitigating the effects of climate change, such as storm alleviation, carbon sequestration and controlling local climate. Adaptation to climate change can be facilitated by strategic forest

management by anticipating more extreme weather patterns and strategic location of forest patches which keep the soil stable and reduce harmful runoff.

To conclude, we want to ensure that everyone who is impacted by climate change should be given the tools and the knowledge to adapt to it. Finance will be required for this, so current financial targets need to be met and succeeded in this regard. Local, ecosystem-based solutions are one vital component of this. Finally, thank you for your patience and for your understanding about my inability to attend this press conference. Please feel free to ask me any questions about this.

Agriculture WG

Climate change is posing a great threat to global food security. At the same time, agriculture is greatly contributing to the climate changes - especially the intensive meat-production industry. We believe the way agriculture has to be changed to resist the threat of climate change and to stop contributing to it.

The YOUNGO Agriculture working group is extremely concerned that the dispute regarding adaptation and mitigation across negotiations is also slowing down the progresses on agricultural issues. This poses an urgent threat to lives, societies and economies.

Furthermore, we call upon all countries to come to the negotiations willing to be flexible, realistic, ambitious and open-minded. The whole world has to unite and listen to each other for adaptation and mitigation. This is only possible with the technical and financial support of Global North.

For the future negotiations to lead to concrete concerted actions, we completely support the call for a joint SBSTA/SBI work program or at least the opening of a space for negotiation regarding implementation. This would allow to start concerted action on the essential, complex and global agricultural issue and stop only address agriculture on theoretical levels.

We need to feed the planet while reducing emissions in a way that will be appropriate for all countries and that will take into account their differences. Also, food security and all human rights need to be considered as part of the solution and must be respected throughout all actions that will be taken. In the name of Climate Justice, we need to act now.

Conflict of interests WG

It is certainly not a new topic: Already at COP19, a lot of NGOs said “Polluters Talk, we walk” and marched out of the negotiations. The last time it was raised was during the second session of the open dialogue of the Presidency on Wednesday. It concerns a systemic problem, that finds its roots well before this COP and that is very close to our heart.

Some non-state actors with vested, commercial, or financial interests that are irreconcilably at odds with the objectives of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement are consistently and continuously using their observer status to hamper the negotiations and to promote false alternatives. This is not in line with the actions needed to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

When the market model of a corporation is the core of the climate crisis, the conflict of interest is too obvious and not acceptable. How can we expect to find solutions that carry the level of ambition that is needed to answer the actual urgency when they sit at the table?

Solutions for this have been found in the UN-System: there are clear and well-established international precedents around the world that pave the way for this, including other UN bodies. It needs to be addressed in the UNFCCC too. It would ensure and enhance civil, especially youth, participation, toward the achievement of the Convention’s and the Paris Agreement's goals.

As we are the generation that will have to deal with the accelerating impacts of Climate change and whose future is tightly linked to the outcome of these negotiations, we need to ensure that climate policy can be properly made by parties for their people, not by business for their shareholders.

Progress is a long process. The system is not perfect – and it might never be perfect. It is our duty to make sure that tomorrow’s system is better than today’s.

Finance WG

To achieve the targets set out in Paris, ambitious levels of climate finance will be needed for adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage. The $100 billion goal is merely a starting point, and Parties need to acknowledge that dramatic increases are required.

Developing countries require additional support from the Adaptation Fund, to ensure that the growing frequency of climate disasters does not lead to continuous economic setbacks that prevent the implementation of sustainable development strategies. The COP should address that there is currently not enough adaptation finance, and that adaptation projects have difficulty to grow in their existing conditions. Additionally, mitigation funding is needed to facilitate the expansion of low-carbon infrastructure, and Loss and Damage finance needs to be mobilized to aid countries who have already begun to face the immediate impacts of heat waves, droughts, and sea-level rise that especially affect the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and African countries.

As Parties review the process for implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), we would like to emphasize the importance of aligning financial commitments with NDC outcomes. With the expectation that ambitions continue to increase as the Talanoa dialogue occurs in 2018, the amount of finance pledged should also rise. Donor countries need to recognize their contributions to the impacts of climate change, and make sure that they are contributing their fair share to the solution. This includes the use of accounting modalities that ensure transparency, making sure there is no double counting, and a commitment to only grants and grant-equivalencies to be counted as climate finance. Investments are required from a wide variety of actors, through several different modalities, and partnerships between public and private need to be fostered to encourage innovative financial options, outside of government.

A reaffirmation of the 2020 $US 100 billion target represents a key opportunity for Parties to show their commitment to climate finance. Thus, YOUNGO encourages all Parties to show their support for COP23 to act as a platform for promoting essential financial commitments in the lead up to the Talanoa Dialogue and COP24.

Gender WG

Gender is crucial in the climate debate. First it changes the way people experience climate change. Second, it affects their ability to engage in solutions to combat climate change. That’s why we need to ensure that policies take the gender aspect into account and that decision-making is gender-balanced while making those policies.

Women, especially in rural areas and developing regions, have unique knowledge of sustainable use of resources and play an important role in providing livelihoods to their families. They are also particularly vulnerable to climate change. Thus we demand gender sensitive financing.

However, women cannot be asked to bear all the change on their shoulders. Existing structures are traditionally hostile to inclusion, and those traditions unfortunately still affects us today. We insist that training programs and briefings should be designed for male participants of climate conferences.

Gender is a core feature that has to be taken into account while developing policies, not a side-problem that can be fixed later. We call on all countries to have gender focal points and to include the gender lens in existing processes.

As a long term goal we envision a world without gender norms and roles in a zero-emission environment well adapted to climate change. We call on all parties within the UNFCCC to adopt a more ambitious gender action plan.

Health WG

Why should we talk about health? Because Climate is our Health and multidisciplinary global efforts are needed to address it. But most importantly that our climate is our health! According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050 Climate Change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year. Not to forget the mental Health problems associated with population’s mobility or immobility caused by extreme weather events. At this moment climate change is already showing its negative effects and it affects the basic elements of life for people around the world.

However, talking about climate change and health doesn’t have to be negative. The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change determined that tackling climate change could be the greatest opportunity for global health this century. Climate change mitigation such as promoting active transport and even reducing air-pollution as a whole has the opportunity to majorly improve health.

During the past time, we noticed that negotiators and stakeholders are more attentive to address health, but it is not nearly enough. We demand an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement. We demand it for the health of our society and future societies. To this end, we recommend Parties to maintain their commitment to health and wellbeing. We believe that health needs to be placed at the center of negotiations on climate change. We also specifically call for parties to commit to addressing loss and damages in the implementation of the agreement in a way that will protect human health. Last, we call on parties to implement the recommendations and follow the proposed actions as presented in the Human Health and adaptation report from the 46th session of the SBSTA.

Youth of today have innovative ideas for mitigation and adaptation that deserve a place in our national policies. Youth are undoubtedly positive agents of change in the world. We are the backbone of the future, leaders both of today and tomorrow. Involve us now, together we stand stronger!

Human Rights WG

Human rights is a broad and cross-cutting topic. But today, in the spirit of the Fijian presidency of COP23, we want to highlight on what island nations and low-lying states around the world are most concerned about when it comes to climate change - migration.

Migration, climate change and the environment are interrelated. Just as environmental degradation and disasters can cause migration, movement of people can also entail significant effects on surrounding ecosystems. This complex nexus needs to be addressed in a holistic manner, taking into account other possible mediating factors including, inter alia, human security, human and economic development, livelihood strategies and conflict. Migration often seems to be misperceived as a failure to adapt to a changing environment. Instead, migration can also be an adaptation strategy to climate and environmental change and is an essential component of the socio-environmental interactions that needs to be managed.

There are no reliable estimates of climate change induced migration. But the evidences are clear - the number of storms, droughts and floods has increased threefold over the last 30 years with devastating effects on vulnerable communities, particularly in the developing world. In 2008, 20 million persons have been displaced by extreme weather events, compared to 4.6 million internally displaced by conflict and violence over the same period. Future forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate.

All migrants are protected by international human rights law. However, despite concrete evidences that climate-induced migration is both real and already happening, until today there is as yet no international consensus on the terminology which should apply to persons on the move due to environmental and/or climate-related factors. While terms like environmental refugees or climate

refugees are gaining popularity and being widely used in the contexts of media and advocacy, these terms have no legal basis in international refugee law. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees centers its definition of a ‘refugee’ on one who is subject to ‘well-founded fear of persecution’, but in itself excludes those who are displaced due to environmental reasons, particularly climate change.

But there are hopeful precedences of how governments have stepped up in the recent past to take a proactive stand on this issue. In Finland and Sweden, someone who left his or her country and is unable to return due to environmental disaster qualifies as a person in need of protection. The USA grants “Temporary Protection Status” to persons already in the USA and unable to return home as a result of environmental disaster; this was applied, for example, after Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998. In the EU, the “Temporary Protection Directive” allows for temporary protection under certain circumstances, when people are suddenly displaced in large numbers and it is not feasible to deal with their cases on an individual basis. Lastly, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami Canada, Switzerland and the UK temporarily suspended removal of nationals of affected countries.

To accomplish the above, there is a need to develop comprehensive policy and programmatic approaches at both the international and national levels by closing the gap between the humanitarian, development and climate change communities and policies. This would involve, for example, factoring climate change adaptation considerations into existing NDCs.

In terms of responding to the already urgent needs on the ground, the international community needs to move from reactive to proactive approaches in order to ensure planning and preparedness for natural disasters and to increase the resilience of states and communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change, by bolstering humanitarian action, supporting adaptation measures, developing temporary and circular labor migration schemes, planning for orderly relocation in areas that are expecting inhabitability, and perhaps more importantly, actively involve and include affected individuals and migrants as important and proactive stakeholders in the planning, implementation, and even evaluation of policies.

It cannot be achieved without the spirit of cross-cutting collaboration, political will, proactive civilian participation, and above all, a fundamental and unconditional respect for human rights.

Loss and Damage WG

Loss and Damage refers to a time where the global community failures have resulted in death and destruction. Mitigation is designed to prevent climate change from happening. Adaptation is designed to help people prepare for its effects. Loss and Damage is what happens after climate-events have struck.

We felt it was vital to speak about Loss and Damage in this COP in particular. Our COP hosts Fiji, as well as many other Global South Countries are being massively impacted by climate events. This year we have experienced a record breaking of large climate-linked disasters. From Cyclones Maria, Irma Harvey to flooding in Bangladesh, India and Sierra Leone, to mudslides in Colombia. I’ve not even mentioned slow-onset disasters yet and, were I to list all of the disasters that happened this year, it would take the whole press conference. Climate change is happening NOW and we need to support communities and countries that are facing this.

The main process at the UNFCCC for Loss and Damage is the Warsaw International Mechanism (or WIM for ease of speech but not of understanding). This allows for financial and technological support to be provided to states that need it.

We’ve seen at the discussions the vocal desire from Small Island Developing States, among others, for increased importance to be afforded to Loss and Damage, including through the Warsaw International Mechanism. The Bahamas and Cuba were concerned about the progress made so far and the Working

Group would like further attention paid to this, in order to alleviate the suffering faced by countries impacted by climate events.

One major concern of the Working Group is the lack of discussion of climate migration and refugees. People fleeing their countries due to climate events are increasing year on year, causing many families to be separated. Provision needs to be put in place to assist people to migrate safely and with dignity, as well as properly support communities in terms of disaster risk reduction and development to prevent their need to flee in the first place. Special attention needs to be paid to women and minority groups. I was at a talk at the Conference of Youth beforehand where someone from the Pacific islands who defined as Trans stated “people blame trans groups’ behaviour for climate disasters, so why do you think we didn’t go to the evacuation centre”. Statements like this show the need for focus on both education and measures to help vulnerable groups.

To conclude, the international community needs to do a lot more to support states that are already being impacted by climate change. There is a moral imperative for the Global North to fulfil its historical duties in this regard. We hope to see progress at COP23 on WIM and other issues in order to save lives and prevent destruction.

Oceans WG

The strong relationship between climate change and our oceans is clear. The oceans are the largest global carbon sink and regulator of our climate. They also suffer some of the most severe impacts of climate change. As our emissions continue to rise, we are experiencing rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones and hurricanes, diminishing fisheries and aquaculture, higher water temperature causing mass die-offs of coral reefs, ocean acidification, saltwater intrusion of coastal drinking supplies, and dead zones due to eutrophication, to name a few. Those most vulnerable to these ocean-mediated consequences of climate change are citizens of SIDS and least developed countries; coastal communities in these states do not have capacity to adapt to displacement and food security risks quickly enough. Even land-locked states have a stake in ocean activities as maritime shipping facilitates approximately 90% of global trade.

This COP is an important time for oceans as a topic within the UNFCCC. Interest in the ocean pathway carries continued momentum from the first ever UN Oceans conference in June of this year in New York, which was co-chaired by Fiji. The Fiji Presidency on behalf of AOSIS considers itself not just an island state but an ocean state, and understands the urgency including ocean discussions on the climate agenda. YOUNGO is encouraged to see the Presidency leading the way towards implementing an Ocean Pathway Partnership (OPP) that will foster critical partnerships between Parties, non-party stakeholders, the private sector, academia, sub-regional governments, and existing ocean conservation coalitions to establish the role of healthy oceans in meeting the Articles of the Paris Agreement by 2020. We enthusiastically support the Presidency in this initiative, and encourage all parties to do the same.

Further, we urge all states to incorporate more ocean-mediated mitigation and adaptation measures in their NDC’s. Projects can include reducing agricultural run-off and pollution from land-based activities, restoring coastal ecosystems, managing fisheries sustainably, realizing the potential of blue carbon as a mitigation strategy, and reducing emissions associated with maritime shipping. Including these recommendations will help parties further Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, and achieve not only Sustainable Development Goal 14, but several others that benefit from healthy oceans and coastlines.

The Thirteen Edition of Conference of Youth

Last weekend the 13th Conference of Youth, the COY13, took place and it has brought 1300 young climate activists from 114 countries together. A team of 80 volunteers has been working on this project for a period of 10 months and we are very satisfied with the final outcome.

The aim of the three-days conference was to empower and strengthen young individuals and youth movements to take responsibility for acting against climate change. It was also a key an event for YOUNGO members to prepare their work for/at COP23. We had around 200 programme contributions among presentations, workshops, performances and even more.

Just as the Fijian COP23 presidency, COY13 has also emphasized the perspectives of small island states and the Pacific region. Together with our team members from Fiji, we chose the slogan for the conference to be “Talanoa mada – Youth accelerating climate action.” In talanoa sessions, participants from the different regions of the world addressed the burning issues regarding climate change they are facing, possible solutions and the key priorities they see for their leaders who negotiate at COP23.

We actually managed to create what is meant when we talk about the talanoa spirit. The sessions fostered an environment of “deep listening”, of giving respect to all the voices in the room with the honest intention to understand the diverse perspectives. This exchange reminded the participants of the common ground we all share as young climate activists, as people.

As COY13, we hope that the very same spirit of talanoa that WE experienced will be carried over into the negotations at COP23. Through unconstrained mutual storytelling, this process would build up empathy and can foster decision-making for the collective good.