This article is written by Juliette Decq.
From December 2nd to December 6th 2014, while diplomats from all over the world started negotiating a new global climate change agreement at Lima’s COP20, another significant event took place in several French and European cities: the 2014 edition of the China-Europa Forum co-organized by the Leopold Mayer Foundation on the theme of climate change. The final agreement text of the conference will be posted on the Forum website.
Every two years since 2001, around 300 representatives from both Chinese and European civil societies (businesses, NGOs, local authorities, youth movements and universities) gather successively in China and Europe in order to exchange and foster cooperation on various topics. Their outcomes are shared by Chinese and European key media such as China Daily.
One year before the historic launch of Paris’ COP21, the choice of the climate change theme by the China-Europa Forum reaffirms two significant statements. First, the climate issue is and will be at the heart of international relations in the coming years. Second, the climate change crisis cannot be solved by states’ representatives alone. Indeed, the cooperation between non-state actors must play a major role in finding a new path for transnational mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
CliMates was selected to organize the youth workshop of the Forum, which took place in the Domaine of Villarceaux (Parisian region). This workshop gathered 10 European representatives (CliMates, Avenir Climatique, We Are Ready Now, Climate KIC entrepreneurs, CAN Europe) and 18 Chinese students and NGO representatives (China Youth Development Foundation, Youth Lead and Beijing Shanshui Conservation Center). They conducted a World Climate simulation of UN Climate Talks, presentations of Chinese and European-led projects and start-ups, a World Café exercise, a video clip and a visit of the farm of the Bergerie.
Member of the Chinese team
Described below are the conclusions drawn from a European (French) perspective:
– Chinese students are incredibly enthusiast and hard working in the field of climate change: they are conducting very concrete campus-based projects such as waste and paper recycling, tree planting, energy trips, projects to fight desertification.
– Chinese and European students use totally different social networks platforms (Chinese use WeChat, QQ and LinkedIn, plus Google drive, Dropbox, Facebook and Twitter are forbidden in China). Beyond the fact that we are working with different online platforms, we also don’t share experience and knowledge in the same way. For example, Chinese students write research papers describing the results and outcomes of their projects. If their publications are recognized relevant, they can influence larger institutions. Europeans tend to communicate on their projects differently and take advantage of broader existing youth and NGO networks.
– The structural working environment is also very different: in China, universities represent the key locations for implementing action and projects.
– Finally, the preoccupations and strategic levers tend to diverge: while Chinese students’ keywords are “technology, online tools, education, air pollution mitigation, economic development and good standards of living”, European youth keywords focused more on “structural change, renewable energies, sustainable food systems, decentralized energy systems”.
If acknowledging the differences between China and Europe in their approach of climate change issues was important, searching ways for cooperating and working together was even more important. The will to do as much as we could to raise awareness about climate change and the eagerness to cooperate after the Forum were two of the main conclusions of this forum. Positive cooperation options were found in the field of learning how to share experiences relative to projects (two Chinese youth were willing to organize a UN Climate Talks simulation in China), methodologies and learn about crowdfunding methods to finance youth initiatives. A Facebook and LinkedIn groups have already been created in this purpose.
Finally, to conclude with a more personal note, I was incredibly moved by some moments we shared with the Chinese delegation: when we danced and sang karaoke together, when the Chinese students gave us their feedbacks on the simulation exercise in which you could hear “cooperation, compromises, common interests” in every mouth. Finally, when I hugged Chandler, the Chinese student with whom I presented the conclusion of our workshop at the final plenary session. He said: “We are partners now”.
On behalf of all CliMates’ participants to this workshop, we would like to thank the Leopold Mayer Foundation for giving us this unique and very important opportunity to bridge the gap between Chinese and European youth climate organisations.
About the author: Juliette Decq has a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and Policies from Sciences Po Paris & Université Pierre et Marie Curie. She coordinator for the Cop in my city project and a CliMates action team member.