9 Dec 2015

Keeping an eye on Paris climate talks

8:52 pm on 9 December 2015

While ministers and negotiators race around trying to pin down a deal at the climate change talks in Paris, they are watched at a polite distance by thousands of accredited observers.

Members of an international youth delegation - including New Zealanders - at the UN Climate Change meeting in Paris.

A group of protesters from an international youth coalition at the UN Climate Change meeting in Paris. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Some of those observers are youth delegates from New Zealand.

The UN climate change meeting was the third that 24-year-old Natalie Jones had attended.

Young people had a crucial and unique perspective to offer, she said.

"We are the ones who will be most affected by these impacts of climate change, and we're actually the generation who in our lifetime will have to oversee a transition to complete decarbonisation."

While the youth delegation felt it had reasonable access to New Zealand officials, many of the UN meetings have been behind closed doors, which Ms Jones said was frustrating.

"So a lot of the meetings are very closed off here. Youth and any other observers are all closed out of them, and this is a shame because this is an agreement that is going to affect everyone in the world, not just these high-level officials."

COP21 NZ Youth delegates Natalie Jones and Ben Abraham.

COP21 NZ Youth delegates Natalie Jones and Ben Abraham. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Outside the talks, members of an international youth coalition have painted circles around their eyes to signal their support for zero emissions by 2050, to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Ben Abraham is from Dunedin, but is now studying at Oxford.

Agreement for a 1.5°C warming limit was critical, he said.

"To be honest, we really need some leadership from New Zealand to come out strongly in favour of this, particularly considering just how crucial that is, almost a survival point for our neighbours in the Pacific."

Mr Abraham said, overall, he had not been impressed with New Zealand's performance at the talks but also with what he considered its paltry emissions reduction target.

Ryan Mearns is part of the delegation from the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.

Ryan Mearns is part of the delegation from the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Ryan Mearns is part of the delegation from the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.

He has been sitting inside the open talks with a friend, writing out what the delegates say on an ever expanding Google Doc, which he said was proving very popular.

"It's a bit of a verbatim tracking of it, with our interpretation of it as well, with hastags and GIFs - which keeps us sane during long periods.

"People around the world have been finding it really fascinating to use it as a sort of tracking mechanism of where the negotiations are at."

NZ delegate Natalie Jones with her fellow delegates.

New Zealand delegate Natalie Jones with other delegates at the talks. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs