Hundreds of children, teens and young adults representing youth from around the world are calling on international leaders to put their words into action and begin honestly working to stop the man-made causes of climate change.
Over the past week, 750 young people from more than 100 countries met in South Korea for the UNEP's Tunza International Children and Youth Conference to discuss the threat of climate change, the challenges their generation will face, and how they could begin to make a global difference.
They are aware that their generation will inherit the outcome of the decisions made at Copenhagen and beyond, said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program:
"It will be in the lifetime of the three billion children and young people alive today that the glaciers of the Himalayas will either persist or melt away; that the sea levels will stabilize or rise, swamping a third of Africa's coastal infrastructure; that the Amazon will remain the lungs of the planet or become an increasingly dried-out and disappearing ecosystem, and the polar bear will continue as the iconic species of the Arctic or, like the Dodo and the dinosaurs, merely an artifact in the world's natural history museums."
The conference participants, ages 10-24, issued the following statement:
Listen to Our Voices: The Future Needs Strong Vision and Leadership
We, young people – 3 billion of the world population – are concerned and frustrated that our governments are not doing enough to combat climate change. We feel that radical and holistic measures are needed urgently from us all.
We now need more actions and less talking. Climate Change is affecting us all, and we need to find efficient ways to cope with it, adapt to it and take action to stop it.
We note that climate change is leading to loss of natural resources and makes it difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Sea level rise, desert encroachment and warmer weather is affecting everyone and everything on the planet, especially small island states.
Climate change has serious consequences not only for ecosystems, but also for human health, job security and social development.
Together we CAN make a difference.
We Request Our Governments to:
• Agree on a more fair, just and action oriented post-Kyoto agreement adopted and implemented by all countries
• Have strict laws and enforcement against those who pollute and degrade the environment, coupled with education and incentives to protect the environment
• Develop and implement clearly defined carbon action plans and climate response strategies, which can be monitored and reviewed by an independent multi-national climate facility
• Transition toward a green economy based on renewable energies and offer more incentives for people to buy affordable energy efficient products
• Reduce the number of vehicles and traffic density on our roads, including improved and affordable public and pedestrian transport systems
• Make engaging environmental education mandatory in schools and universities and promote community environmental awareness - an informed public is a powerful public
• Engage in environmentally friendly activities especially planting, nurturing and protection of trees;
• Exchange, connect and encourage best practices of young people on climate change;
• Communicate environment and climate change through the media and social networks like Uniteforclimate.org, Facebook and Twitter, and also develop environmental web sites on climate change.
• Encourage schools and universities to become ecofriendly
• Support and promote the efforts of the UN Secretary General to seal the deal in Copenhagen.
In September, UNEP plans to organize a 1 million youth march in 100 capitals to deliver that message to the world's leaders.
U.S. youth participant Cassandra Lin, who was nominated for the conference after she and some friends showed her Rhode Island town council how easily it could turn used vegetable grease from restaurants into fuel, stressed the need to act now to keep the world as beautiful for her generation as it is today.
"We know that a lot of the leaders today are dreaming about changing the world, about helping the environment," she said, "but they have to do it and they have to do it now, before it's too late."