Copyright David Wargert

Photo courtesy David Wargert and Energy Action Coalition


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It’s day four of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Poznan, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. I’m up before the sun rises and in bed after midnight; the action is nonstop in between.

I am one of 500 youth delegates here from more than 50 countries across the globe, from India to Peru to Australia. We’ve been meeting with government officials, participating in negotiations, harassing corporations, training each other in everything from climate justice to organizing skills, and speaking clearly and loudly that young people are collaborating across borders and have a shared vision. We want binding, equitable, science-based targets, and we’re going to fight for them.

One of the ways that we’ve been telling our story is through actions; we’ve been coordinating two per day! This afternoon we hosted a “Who Wants To Be a Trillionaire?” game show. One contestant was the “big banks,” which recently won $4.1 trillion in government bailouts from the U.S. and European governments. The other was a “climate rescue plan,” which got 40 times less in government aid, a measly $13.1 billion (if that doesn’t sound like a big disparity, check out the graph on this report. Despite getting all the questions wrong, the “big banks” got all the money anyway. A rambunctious game show audience held a banner that said: “EU Bailout: $2.8 Trillion. US Bailout: $1.3 Trillion. Climate Rescue: Priceless”

Our point was simple: The same people who have spent decades telling us they can’t afford to save our planet can clearly move trillions of dollars within weeks (when their own pocketbooks are directly affected). The issue is not lack of resources, it’s lack of political will. Youth are demanding that our governments invest in a green economy, our planet, and our future.

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Lucky for us, the global economic crisis presents us with a wonderful opportunity. The opening day here in Poland, the UNFCCC said that the economic crisis is no excuse for inaction. We are saying that, in fact, it’s the best reason in the world to invest in clean energy to create green jobs and spark opportunity worldwide.

If we are bailing out failing industries (from financial systems to auto industries) with public funds, then the public should be able to make demands upon them. Journalist and author Naomi Klein once called the idea “people’s structural adjustment.”

This is a powerful moment for governments who are suddenly having more control — if they choose to — over massive sectors of industry, by exercising leverage for climate demands. We need to renew these sectors. It’s not just about money, it’s about innovation and curbing emissions. We can tie the financial industry bailout to demands that industry become more innovative and more climate conscious.

We know that any solution to the climate crisis that is not equitable and just, is no solution at all. International youth are at the United Nations tasking the leaders of the world with no less than fundamentally changing the way our economies work. This crisis gives us an opportunity to take a massive step forward with instituting a Green New Deal and investing in a new truly just, sustainable economy.

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