26 Nov 2015

'This issue will define my generation'

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 26 November 2015
Francisco Hernandez, James Young-Drew and Lisa McLaren outside Parliament, just before they left for Paris as part of the New Zealand Youth Delegation to the UN climate talks.

Francisco Hernandez, James Young-Drew and Lisa McLaren outside Parliament, just before they left for Paris as part of the New Zealand Youth Delegation to the UN climate talks. Photo: Veronika Meduna / RNZ

Concerned but undeterred.

That is how Lisa McLaren described her state of mind a day before she left for Paris this week to attend a youth climate conference in the lead-up to the UN climate talks.

Lisa is part of the nine-strong New Zealand Youth Delegation – all people in their 20s who have been selected to represent New Zealand and to advocate for a fair and liveable world for their generation.

In Paris, they will join thousands of other young people from countries throughout the world calling for stronger action on climate change.

Lisa says the group has discussed the recent attacks in Paris but everybody was determined to go anyway because the issue was too important.

This is something that will impact everyday New Zealanders, whether it will be through higher cost of importing products or issues around climate migrants. This will impact everybody.

Francisco Hernandez says the group wants to influence policy development and “expose the lack of action behind the rhetoric about a clean green New Zealand”.

“I am from the Philippines originally and have seen the impact of climate change on my hometown. These sort of climate-related disasters are going to get worse as climate change accelerates and I think that young people have a responsibility to do what we can to limit the damage and to future-proof our economies and societies.”

James Young-Drew says climate change defines his generation.

“It’s a global problem which touches all aspects of our lives. There will be economic consequences, there are moral components, human rights aspects. It touches on inter-generational equity and issues of social justice and because I’m in a position of relative privilege I want to do everything in my power to try and avoid these outcomes."

After the youth conference, the New Zealand team will observe during COP21, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and report back to youth groups back home.

The COP21 meeting in Paris is expected to produce a legally binding agreement that commits countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The UN’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, told Our Changing World in an earlier interview that a two-degree warming limit is an important goal, but that the pledges countries have submitted fall rather short of it.  

Francisco Hernandez says on current pledges, the world is headed for 2.7 to 3.5 degrees of warming.

We can do better and get to a target below 2 degrees, but if no-one was working in the climate space and people didn’t see this as an issues, we would be headed to above 4 degrees.

Earlier this month, meteorologists at the UK's Met Hadley Centre have revealed that the rise in global mean temperature at the Earth's surface is set to reach 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time.

New Zealand's target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 11 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Whatever the specific outcome of the Paris talks, the team says they are optimistic that it will set a course towards a decarbonised world.

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