On Friday, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres held an informal meeting with youth activists from Tck Tck Tck’s Adopt a Negotiator program. In response to a question about what inspires her, Figueres gave an impassioned and eloquent response in which she concluded, “So what inspires me? It’s you.” The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson captured the exchange on video and provided this transcript:
It’s you. It’s the next generation. Look: We’re doing this but this has nothing to do with us. It’s all about you. It’s all about you. We’re the ones that have caused the problem but you’re the ones that are going to have to pay for it, right? The fact is, I’m the mother of two women about your age, and I realized many years ago that I had inherited a planet that was a diminished planet. And that if I didn’t do something about it, my daughters would grow up in a planet that had been severely diminished by what we’re doing. And I just can’t look at my daughters in the eyes and not do whatever I can.
So, it’s you. It’s about the kind of planet that you’re going to have. It’s honestly not my planet. It’s yours, okay? We borrowed it from you for a few minutes. But you will take it over very soon, because it’s yours. And you’re going to have to give it over to your children.
Honestly, there’s no perfect job here, okay? Nothing that we are going to do in Cancun is going to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Nothing is going to be highly ambitious. Nothing. Everything here is going to be one step, and everything is going to be insufficient. But it is the best that this group of people in these circumstances, with these political constraints, in this economic environment, can do for the time being. And as soon as this finishes we have to start pushing for the next step. And so it goes. But each one of us that is here has the moral responsibility to do the absolute best that we can at that moment under those circumstances. So what inspires me? It’s you.
Watch a video clip of the exchange, starting at the 1:30 mark:
Figueres’ comments remind me of the approach my father took to camping when I was a child — an approach his father had passed down to him. The rule was that when you left your campsite, you always left it in better condition than when you arrived.
Current inhabitants of this planet have a choice to make: Will the planet we pass on to future generations be a livable one or an unlivable one? Will our grandchildren and their grandchildren look back on our time with horror for our disregard for the planet, or will the history books record that when push came to shove we put aside our differences and solved the climate crisis? Whether or not we recognize it, it is our choice to make.