“So what now?”
As the final hours of COP18 dragged towards their close, the question was on the tip of the tongue of all of civil society. After 18 years, the United Nations climate talks have failed to reach maturity. Even the most significant and celebrated milestone of the past decades of climate talks, the Kyoto Protocol, may have been delivered its final death blow on the air conditioned floor of the Qatar National Convention Center.
For the past two decades the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been considered by governments and civil society groups as the platform that would deliver a global climate deal to keep us beneath dangerous warming trends.
Yet after the Copenhagen talks failed to deliver the global deal it was built up to, the past three years have seen the United Nations climate process lose steam year after year. Historical polluters have successfully undermined some of the founding principles of these talks; equity and the recognition that historical polluters have a greater responsibility for addressing climate change than the developing world. More simply than this, the UN has enshrined policies that have set the world on the path for a 4f-degree world, blowing past its own mission and mandate to limit warming be 2 degrees.
So again, what now?
The climate talks have not failed alone. We are not falling off the climate cliff without first being pushed by the fossil fuel industries dirty energy, dirty money and dirty politics. Each day the fossil fuel industry spends $167,000 on lobbying the US congress. The fossil fuel industry has worked to undermine clean energy legislation in Europe, California, Australia, South Africa and Japan.
They have been bankrolling climate denial since I was a baby. Simply put, in order to meaningfully address climate change, we need to deal with the political and financial clout of an industry that holds nearly six times the limit of carbon that can be emitted to maintain a 2-degree limit, that’s where we go from here.
We need to build a movement that can take on the greatest, and fastest planetary shift that we have ever seen. Not simply numbers, we need a movement that runs deep, recognizing the connections between social movements around the globe, and a movement that can harness the moral voice and imperative of youth around the world.
This June is the first step with the launch of Global PowerShift. Bringing together hundreds of young organizers from climate justice movements from all corners of the world to Istanbul, Global PowerShift is the first stage in a plan to launch the youth climate movement like never before.
The math is simple. We have 565 gigatonnes worth of carbon space left in the atmosphere and 2,765 gigatonnes worth of fossil fuel reserves that big oil, coal and gas are planning to burn. With current projections, we have 13 years before we break the carbon budget.
Thankfully we also have millions of youth around the globe who have grown up in a world 1 degree warmer than the pre-industrial average, and who refuse to inherit a world on track for a 4-degree warming path. Over the past two years youth have been at the lead of movements pushing the political boundaries, from the Occupy movement to the Quebec student strike, the Arab Spring and beyond.
In the past month the movement to divest campuses in the United States from fossil fuels has exploded. Even as the climate talks continued in their monotonous din of inaction, the frustration of youth could be felt as climate inaction was juxtaposed against the backdrop of Typhoon Bopha. Rallying to stand with the Philippines and offering solidarity to those countries fighting for real, just climate action young people from around the world sent a clear message; if you stand for youth, we will stand with you.
By the end of this decade, the world will be on track for an unprecedented level of warming, unless by the end of 2013 the world will have witnessed an unprecedented level of climate organizing world-wide, united in the pursuit of science and justice-based transformative action on climate change. As Munira Sibai told the final plenary of the UN talks “outside of these walls, a movement is growing.”