Youth to speak out at COP 17

25 November 2011

Youngsters from four South African schools will get the opportunity of a lifetime when they participate in the Youth Climate Negotiation session at the Climate Change Response Expo during COP 17.

The expo forms part of the events around the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which starts in Durban on Monday.

The Youth Climate Negotiation session on 28 November, hosted by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), will include selected delegates representing various sectors looking to draft a South African Durban Youth Protocol.

Desire Kosciulek, youth development officer at the SAIIA, said the UNFCCC has confirmed SAIIA’s youth side-event. On 29 November, the youth will go on to present the South African Durban Youth Protocol at COP 17.

“As the only South African youth programme (especially involving high school learners, teachers, and university students) officially part of the proceedings inside COP 17, we believe this is a particularly important opportunity for the voice of young South Africans to be heard,” said Kosciulek.

BuaNews chatted to four of the youngsters who will be at COP 17 and are passionate about saving the environment.

Climate change and water scarcity

Mbali Mazibuko, who attends the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg, feels it is her responsibility to educate others at home and school about climate change. At the Youth Protocol, she will assume the role of an African environmental activist.

“My topic is that of climate change and fresh water,” said Mazibuko. “We need to join in our capacity as members of the youth and combat climate change which affects fresh water resources. As we negotiate, I will try everything in my power to ensure that fresh water scarcity is dealt with.”

The youngster said it was a great honour to be able take part in one of the most significant conferences. “We have been tasked with a great responsibility, as the youth of South Africa at the Youth Climate negotiations at COP 17.”

Mazibuko said young citizens needed to be reached through a media with which they are comfortable.

“Television advertisements and radio seem to be the trendy aspects of their lives but social networks would be the most successful. More initiatives need to be made available and an interest in ‘go green’ projects should be created.”

Art is one way in which Mazibuko will communicate her messages. “Generation Earth is a ‘go green’ organisation in many schools and Mark Mohan, who is the president of the Generation Earth at the National School of the Arts, is working on ways to further create interest.

“Our school specialises in art and we could have plays on the environmental impact that climate change has. A series of art works showing what Mother Earth will look like a few years from now could be successfully done,” she said.

She also plans on organising more debates on environmental sustainability.

‘Changing light bulbs is not enough’

KwaZulu-Natal pupil Gabriel Adderley attends Wykeham Collegiate and firmly believes government and policy makers need to be challenged on climate change issues, and “changing light bulbs and short showers is not enough”.

“It’s exciting to be part of something that’s big and involves such an international range of people. Climate issues are featuring more and more in the media and developing an eco-conscience is becoming necessary for corporate bodies and governments to promote their public image,” said Adderley.

She is encouraged by the number of youth-inspired action plans such as climate camps and moving-planet bicycle rallies.

Adderley will be traveling to Europe in 2012 to experience some of the “progressive environmental attitudes that some countries have adopted”.

“The public transport, alternative fuels and energy, bio-intensive farming methods, ecological housing developments are all in very dense urban environments. South Africa has such great physical space to develop these ideas. I think we have such a creative potential as a country,” she said.

‘It’s all of our problem’

Nabeel Allie-Ebarhim from Rondebosch Boys’ High School in the Western Cape will be busy formulating and presenting the South African Durban Youth Protocol.

“My contribution to the protocol will be to represent the views and perspectives of the fossil fuel industry because the purpose of this all, in my belief, is to find a win-win situation, and the fossil fuel sector forms part of that equation,” Allie-Ebarhim said.

He believes a change in attitude will contribute to the climate change fight.

“[The youth] need to have a change in attitude. In South Africa we have a history of youth taking a stand for what is right, and I believe this mentality will benefit us in the battle against climate change,” he said.

Allie-Ebarhim will continue to raise awareness in his community, hoping to eradicate an apathetic mindset.

“It’s not just the president or the minister of environmental affairs’ problem. This earth belongs to all of us, and therefore we all need to play our part in maintaining it.”

Raising the voice of subsistence farmers

African Leadership Academy student Matjie Lillian Maboya is looking forward to interacting with people who lead major climate change action programs.

“It means an opportunity to learn from and share climate change knowledge with people from around the world. I will be raising the voices of subsistence farmers. I will highlight the challenges they face due to climate change and ways in which they would like our leaders to support them through policy changing or relevant intervention strategies,” Maboya explained.

Inspired by the likes of the late environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai, Maboya believes that one of the most effective ways to address climate issues is by massive grassroots action.

“Young people can work on community projects that include mandating rainwater harvesting in townships, urban and rural areas… young people need to take the lead to educate people in their communities about these issues,” she said.

Maboya said young South Africans can explore the area of research – as there is still a lot of work to be done in gathering data about how climate change is affecting even the smallest of townships in the country.

“Also with the research, local-based solutions need to be devised and implemented. If our youth can lead such initiatives, then this issue will gain more momentum as all citizens would be aware of immediate and long-term impacts. We should not always wait for global research organisations to tell us about what is happening in our own micro-environments,” she said.

Maboya is involved in research and the implementation of strategies of how various local-based sustainable projects can be scaled up in townships and rural South Africa and other parts of the continent.

Source: BuaNews