As climate change was underplayed in Sendai, youth spoke out

 

Photo1_Cecile Pilot Author: Cecile Pilot is a negotiation tracker and COP in MyCity member. Born in France and currently student in Human Rights Law, she is interested in advocacy for minorities bearing the devastating brunt of conflicts and climate disasters. In 2013, she was living in Japan. In the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe, the great resilience of communities was an inspiration that convinced her that change can start from successful grassrout actions.

Learning from the past

While we may not be able to prevent floods, droughts or earthquakes, we have learnt that steps can be taken to mitigate risks. From March 14 to 18th, 2015, Japan welcomed 6,500 delegates to share lessons on reducing disaster risk. Four years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in the Tohoku region, Japanese keep working hard to build back their towns and communities in a better way.

The host city of the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR), Sendai, definitely had the legitimacy to show the world the way. 10 years after the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was adopted, governments, United Nations agencies and civil society called for renewing tireless efforts to make the world safer from disasters. Agreeing on measures to reduce disaster risks and committing to making them happen was the main objective of this event. Sendai was going to deliver the first major agreement of Post-2015 sustainable development era. At the forefront of disasters, children and youth are a major part of community-level responses. They must play an important role in disaster-risk reduction (DRR) and should not be stigmatized as victims and beneficiaries of the new framework. With 200 other young people, I had the privilege to be in Sendai. Our mission was to ensure that children and youth voices would be heard at the United Nations, in the perspective of an inclusive- and people-centered framework. Ready to lead and partner, we involved in discussions with experts to help them finding solutions. During workshops and panels we improved youth commitments and action plans for a resilient society.

Bridging CliMates to disaster risk

As a youth activist, member of CliMates, I keep working with young people leading climate action globally. During the process leading up to the WCDRR, I noted the coverage of climate change and its relation to disaster risk was underplayed. In Sendai, the links between growing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing disaster risk were largely ignored. Financial and technical support to the countries struggling to recover from disasters were also controversial issues. However, no one rejected the evidence that climate change adaptation and mitigation would contribute to disaster risk reduction efforts. While the international frameworks on DRR and climate change operate separately, there is a crucial need to bridge these processes and enhance the coherence that will benefit to sustainable development. In the Children & Youth Forum held in Tohoku University, alongside the WCDRR, I facilitated a simulation of climate change negotiations.

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Taking young people seriously

With 50 young people from all over the world we created the space to make decisions like our official delegations were just doing in the main venue of the WCDRR. We authentically simulated negotiations of the UNFCCC. Participants were assigned a country and looked at their position regarding the specific topic of emissions reduction, Green Climate Fund and deforestation. After preparation, they stepped into the shoes of diplomats to experience dynamics that emerge as nations negotiate a global agreement to limit temperatures rise to 2°C. Aware that the world’s poorest people were being hit harder and harder by disasters, they brought forward new solutions in their own resolution. I finally use the software of Climate Interactive, framed by current climate change science, to enable participants to find out how their decisions impact the global climate system.

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Once again, I was thrilled at the capacity of youth to shift mindsets and build consensus by balancing real data with unreal elements of the game. In the COP in MyCity project of CliMates, simulations we use prove to be one of the most successful instruments for engaging and educating youth in the work of the United Nations. They help to equip youth participants in the dialogue taking place in their governments, civil society and at the UN. “It’s your world” says the UN but we need to keep working to bridge the gap between international negotiations and people for a better representation of their needs and priorities. First, let’s use simulations to give young people a core set of policies and actions needed to tackle climate change. This will prepare them to implement Sendai Framework in their communities, and lead change in December 2015 for a Conference of the Parties with higher stakes than ever before.

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