(Editor's note: Lucky us — we have a Hoosier correspondent in Paris for the climate change talks that are now underway. Lauren Kastner is on the Board of Directors of Earth Charter Indiana in 2015 and is a national youth leader with the Sierra Student Coalition.)
In coordinated visual stunts today in Paris, youth from the United States called on their government to aggressively pursue clean energy with a goal of phasing out fossil fuels in the long-term. They are calling for the highly-anticipated climate agreement at the UN climate talks to include a firm end date to fossil fuel energy by 2050 and a transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.
- photo by Ashley Wineland
One stunt occurred inside the formal negotiations in order to direct the message of zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050 at diplomats, environment ministers and press. The corresponding message of 100 percent clean energy was held for the public at the Eiffel Tower.
- photo courtesy of Maria Langholz
While the U.S. has initially pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2030, it has not pledged a specific renewable energy target. Climate scientists say that current commitments are not enough to prevent a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures and therefore nations must invest even more in renewable energy. Youth from the U.S. are leading on this message because, as the generation inheriting the burden of climate change, they are invested in getting the world on track to implementing clean energy solutions immediately.
Visual stunts like today’s actions are not uncommon at the annual climate talks. In fact, in the frenetic and high-tension environment of the United Nations, actions are one of the most effective ways that civil society can communicate with official negotiators and government representatives. Citizen observers are granted very limited opportunities to interact and influence the negotiations.
Unlike the public input process for laws and regulation in the U.S., the U.S. Department of State does not have the same requirement to solicit public input on foreign policy matters like the climate talks. Therefore, youth and other members of the wider population must get creative in order to get the attention of lead negotiators and also educate the public back home.