Sunday, 29 November 2009

Copenhagen, Baby!

The Copenhagen 4 inspect the giant ball covered in all the delegates handprints and climate statements.
UNICEF UK/2009/Rowan Boase

The Copenhagen 4 have arrived! We’re all really tired from our first day hard at work at the Children’s Climate Forum, but our levels of enthusiasm and excitement are at an all-time high!

We arrived on Friday evening and settled into the youth hostel which is putting every one of the 45 delegations up for the duration of the Forum. We (the boys) found our first friends from another delegation in our roommates, who come from Turkey. They speak good English, which helps!

We got up for a 7.30 breakfast, which is pretty much the earliest I have woken up on a Saturday since I was in the womb. Having headed across to the City Hall (which is an AMAZING building – it looks like it has come straight out of the Middle Ages!), we got to setting up our exhibition stand about UK culture. It was really great to see all the delegations in one room together and to start to mingle. We made loads of really good friends – from Poland, Kiribati (which is pronounced Kiribas), the Maldives, New Zealand, Greenland, Hong Kong and from loads of other places too!

Katie adds her thoughts to a poster.
UNICEF UK/2009/Rowan Boase

We then had a plenary session in which we discussed what was going to happen during the week and had the opportunity to get to know the facilitators a bit. The opening ceremony was an awesome experience – we got to see the best of Danish carol singing and ballet dancing and heard brief speeches from some important local people. The Forum was declared ‘open’ upon the lifting of a giant ball covered in all the delegates’ handprints and their climate statements – it was quite a spectacle!

A tatste of Danish culture at the opening ceremony.
UNICEF UK/2009/Rowan Boase

In the afternoon we got into some more detailed discussion about climate change, COP15 and our role in the climate debate. It is a truly quite profound experience to sit in the midst of 160 young people who, with their widely varying cultures, backgrounds, experiences and thoughts about climate change, have nevertheless congregated with a single-minded aim: to get something done about it. Striking also was the realisation that we in Britain still see climate change as a threat to our futures – having heard a snapshot of others’ experiences of climate change, it is clear that for many of the people we are with, it is a very real and present threat to their communities’ ways of life.

The delegates get to work.
UNICEF UK/2009/Rowan Boase

So having found out a bit more about what the next week holds for us and having made some great new friends, we are really looking forward to having a fantastic Forum. So to sum up, in the words of our Turkish roommates, today was ‘tiring but funky’.

Luke x

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Meeting your local MP

I recently met with my local MP, Peter Luff, after arranging to meet him at his weekly surgery. We discussed my involvement with UNICEF, my local volunteering activities, but also the Conservative policies and his own personal opinions surrounding climate change.

With the General Election fast approaching, it was really valuable to get an insight into the Conservative’s action plan when it comes to the environmental agenda. Their priorities seem to be:
  • The development of ‘smart grid’ and ‘smart meter’ technology
  • Subsidising the insulation of homes
  • Encouraging the micro-generation of electricity
  • Expanding offshore wind and marine power

Worcestershire, my home county, is relatively forward-looking when it comes to sustainability, achieving the Beacon Award for tackling climate change in 2008-2009. Whilst Peter and I didn’t see eye to eye on some issues, such as wind turbines and nuclear power, it was great that he gave me some of his time – especially given that I am not even of voting age yet!

Architects from Worcestershire County Council working with young people at a design workshop, with the aim of building an eco-community centre in our local area.

In many ways, I felt that Peter did not quite grasp the extent of youth activism on climate change in my local area. This is why it is essential for young people to contact their local MP’s and get their voices heard on such issues. By showing local leaders that we support ambitious climate policies and pledges and reminding them that we will be the ones voting and facing the consequences of climate change, they will soon start to take notice! So here are a few of my top tips for contacting and meeting your local MP:

  1. Have a look at the website ‘They Work For You’ to find out who your local MP is, what they have voted on recently and their main topics of interest.

  2. All MP’s have a personal website where you can find contact details – write them a letter or an email, or even ring them up and see if you can arrange a meeting. They might take a while to respond, but be patient!

  3. Once you’ve got a date, do some research. Have a look at some issues they have campaigned about recently and think about how it’s relevant to you. They will be pleasantly surprised by your initiative and will certainly be more responsive in the discussion.

  4. Relax, act confident and smile! There is no need to be nervous – they are representing you and will appreciate what you have to say.

  5. Thank them for their time, even if the discussion wasn’t that positive.

I hope to get in touch with Peter once I return from Copenhagen, and discuss the outcomes of the Children’s Climate Change Forum and the UN Conference, and what it means for our local area. I hope you feel inspired to take similar action with your local MP and get a positive experience out of it!

Katie x

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Interviewing John Swinney MSP about Climate Change and Young People

I recently travelled to Edinburgh on behalf of UNICEF to interview John Swinney, (The Minister for Finance and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government.) The interview took place at the government building St Andrews House; it was a really interesting day. I asked Mr Swinney questions like “How should we deal with Climate Change when we are in a recession, what he thought teenagers can do to make a difference on the subject of Climate Change and how much funding Scotland is contributing to tackle Climate Change?” I had an amazing time! You can see parts of the interview on YouTube by following this link

After my interview with the Cabinet Minister I was interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland about young people and their views on how their climate is changing. I was also interviewed by Gavin Walker of the BBC for the news time program “Reporting Scotland” and this will be broadcast in Mid-December.

It was an amazing day and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I think young people’s views were made clear quite well and I felt like was being treated as an equal to the big scary adults and politicians who all had their own views on Climate Change as well.

Thanks UNICEF and Aileen Easton at the Scottish Government for making this event go ahead.


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Copenhagen 4: Letter to Gordon Brown and Final Prep. Weekend

Hi Everyone!

Sorry it's been a while since our last blog, but it's good because we've now got a lot to update you on!

Last weekend (6-8 Nov.) the four of us travelled down to London for what was our final meeting in preparation for the Children's Climate Forum. It was a really fun weekend, and once again we left feeling inspired by each other's enthusiasm.

Having arrived at our hotel on Friday night, we got cracking early on Saturday with some public speaking training, which was a really amazing experience. Jennifer, the expert who was training us, was fantastic, and got us talking about all kinds of crazy things off the top of our heads. We each learnt a lot about ourselves and how we come across to an audience, and picked up some great tips as to how to improve our speaking, which will be really helpful at the CCF.

In the afternoon we talked more about the Forum itself and what we would be doing there, and discussed the presentation that we are to give to our host Danish school (you can see the presentation here, even as we are making it - we're not quite there yet, but we think it's looking really cool already!). By the evening, although we were completely worn out by the day's activities, we had a lovely pizza dinner and went to watch Up! (definitely worth a watch) in 3-D in the West End, which was really good, albeit in quite a sad and scary way! Then Luke kindly tried to give us a really fascinating explanation as to how the 3-D glasses worked and how they could be used to demonstrate quantum mechanical effects, but by that time we were too tired to care and instead politely pretended we were listening.

In the morning we finished off a few more things, such as our choices for the workshops we would be doing in Copenhagen. We had to resort to pulling names out of a hat at least twice, and it turns out that the hats love Graeme! We ended up (after MUCH deliberation) being very happy with our choices, and it's great to know what we'll be doing while we are there. There was a bit of rush at the end to get our exhibition stand created - this is where we'll be making a display about Britain for the other delegations to look at on the first day of the Forum. We ended up not quite getting it finished, but luckily the wonderful UNICEF staff were (all too) keen to help finish the painting and sticking for us!

We also, finally, got our letter to Gordon Brown finished, signed and sent off! Wooo! Basically we are thanking him for agreeing to attend COP15, telling him about who we are, what the CCF is, and what we are doing prior to it. We also ask to see if he will meet with us so that we can hand over the Declaration of Young People's views after the Forum to him personally, which would be an awesome opportunity for us to tell him and the UK public about what we have been doing. You can see the final letter here. We think it's a great summary of everything we have been doing and our most important views about climate change. Let's hope he agrees to meet us! You can see the letter below:Well I think that's about it! We are so insanely excited about Copenhagen - in two weeks' time we'll be there! Make sure you keep reading this blog - we'll be updating it regularly with all the exciting things we're doing!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit

‘Tackling Climate Change: A commonwealth agenda for young people’

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Kinnock speaking at the Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit in London, 28 October 2009.

Here’s a quick reminder of just a few of the member states of the Commonwealth:

  • South Africa

  • Maldives

  • Zambia

  • Bangladesh

Young people from these countries, amongst many others, are already feeling the effects of climate change. Representatives were invited to attend the Summit to share their stories and to develop a Youth Statement and Recommendations for Action to influence Commonwealth policies.

UNICEF were asked to run a session about the impact of climate change on children’s rights, and I was lucky enough to join Jazmin, a UNICEF youth officer, at the Commonwealth Secretariat for the morning workshop.

Meeting young people from all over the world was a great experience, and a good insight into how the Children’s Climate Change Forum will be. We heard how some countries are already suffering from increased droughts, flooding and food shortages and how young people were trying to address these challenges, which I found both frightening and inspiring.

Hopefully, by making them aware of the relationship between climate change and children’s rights, they will feel empowered to fight for those who are unable to speak out. I wish them all the luck with the challenges they face back home and hope that their statement will add to young people’s impact at the UN Climate Change Conference.

Katie x