Today Marty McFly just arrived in the DeLorean and discovered a whole new future. We all have expectations about the future. Either shark holograms coming at us in front of a movie theatre, hoverboards or 100% clean energy in the long-term, we aspire for things to be greater. Young people inside climate negotiation are no strangers to these aspirations. Come aboard our DeLorean and discover the future we want.
From self tying shoes to a self sufficient society, is there just a journey in time, taking into account young generations’ point of view in the Paris agreement? If we had a time machine would we go back in time and grab an almanach of climate change, or head to the future to discover what’s become of youth expectations – and possibly save our children from impending danger? These questions could be answered by saying that where there’s a will, there’s supposedly a way. But there’s also a cruel need for means. Financial help is critical to allow an equal footing for every country in order to both mitigate and adapt. Young people expect countries who all seem to have the will, to find the financial way to make this happen. Our young eyes also expect their transition to be free from all the garbage that are fossil fuels, in order to speed towards a cleaner future.
If there is one thing Marty’s little trip to the past taught us, it is that you never truly know your parents. Our parents today are the people who are negotiating in these obscure rooms of the UNFCCC, making decisions that they say do not involve us, that we would apparently disturb if we were there to observe.”’Get out of here, kid, you got no future’? » Let mommy and daddy make the right decisions to build you a future.
“Well, that’s all in the past.” “You mean the future?”
It is simple for them, because they will not be in our future. And who are they, really? You travel back in time, then you find out that your dad was a peeping tom and your mom an alcoholic, or you discover that they grew up making money on fossil fuels and polluting the atmosphere to insure their own comfort. Changing now would be too hard and require losing money, jobs, relations or worse, question their way of life. It is understandable, but unfair. Marty has been to the past and to the future, he is the only one to have a broad picture of the story and to have the elements for a right decision that could save his child. The youth of today is a strange mixture of old and new that has the right tools for rationality, and technologies to implement it. We have benefited from the old way of living but now we have sustainable long term goals because we know we will benefit from a clean, healthy and equitable environment in our future, as will our children.
“The time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe”
Actually we, future generations, want quite simple things to thrive, like a good health to begin with. Breathing through the smog of our polluted cities to go to work, or swimming in the trash of our acidic oceans, is not the future we envision. Being ambitious about climate change means being ambitious about our health as well. Placing it at the very center of everyone’s motivation is a guarantee we won’t need a time machine to go check up on our children.
“Don’t be a slacker!”
We cannot expect our kids, and current young people, to get a bailout from time-travelling parents every time something goes wrong. We need to be able to learn to better understand everything at stake around the climate negotiations. Education is a key part of the actual action against climate change. That’s why we feel it needs to be a comprehensive part of the Paris agreement, in order for civil society to fully support public policies on climate and facilitate innovation in the field. After all, if we want to invent a time machine that runs of biofuel from our garbages, education is the key to make the DeLoreans of the world fly!
The relationship between Marty McFly and Doc should be the role model to look at for a good two way communication between youths and older decision makers. This cooperation between the youths of today and tomorrow, and the grown ups who are today leading the show in the UN, is exactly the kind of relationships we need to see in order for the UN climate negotiations to move forwards. The concept of intergenerational equity is an important point that needs to stay in the agreement text. If there can be no assurance that future generations will receive the same world as we did today, there can be no trust between youths and decision makers.
“Yeah, well, history is gonna change”
A frightening but necessary lesson we got from Back to the Future is that the end of the world is potentially just around the corner. We are already seeing and experiencing the effects of climate change, and with the accurate expectancy that the worst is yet to come, the only sensible thing is make preparations in the form of adaptive measures, but also repair what has already gone wrong. This is a hot topic in the UN climate talks, and in order to answer who should pay, we need to look to the countries who holds the historical responsibility for the sky high emissions we are seeing today.
Charlotte Synnøve Garmann-Johnsen is a young Norwegian holding a MSc in Managing Contemporary Global Issues with Environment and Development. She is also a youth delegate to the UN climate talks in Bonn and Paris through the Norwegian NGO Spire.
Clémentine Cahier studied germanic languages and international relations, and now she is completing a masters degree in governance of the sustainable development transition in AgroParisTech. She is the director of Climates’ human resources and was involved in the Heat Wave in MyCity project.
Margaux Jobin is Communication Director at CliMates. She’s been involved in the fight against climate change for 6 years, she is now specialized in institutional and environmental communication. She also co-manages the COY11 communication team, the 11th Conference of Youth, happening in Villepinte, November 26th-28th.