Skip to content

COP 19 Conference Coverage

Kathleen Coulter

I’m sitting at the computer frantically sending emails, checking the status of our viewers, a million questions running through my head, and all the while the clock is steadily ticking. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, will be walking in here any minute. I’d spent all week coordinating a virtual discussion with youth NGO representatives from all over the world, interested in hearing about our experience at COP and speaking directly with the Youth Envoy. And, due to technical difficulties, the discussion was going to turn into an awkward hour-long chat between Ahmad and I, and a few of my associates.

Fortunately, just as Ahmad was walking in the room, we connected with a few of our virtual participants. I had confirmation we were broadcasting live. More joined in throughout the hour and it ended up being a very successful program. We wanted to show the Youth Envoy that it wasn’t just the few of us present at the conference who cared. There were youth working in every country, activists and advocates working against climate change. I think he saw that and appreciated it. He said something during the chat that I thoroughly agree with. By the time any of us reach the conference, there’s not too much we can do. Governments and negotiators have already decided on a position. It’s up to us back home to take the steps we can, through grassroots movements in our local communities and countries, to change our government’s mind.

I spent the past two weeks in Warsaw, Poland attending the 9th Conference of Youth and the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I’ve had an incredible experience. I learned so much working with different members of the youth constituency, each with different messages and methods of advocacy and activism. I attended workshops and side events. I met with lead negotiators from highly influential countries and had the opportunity to share my delegation’s key messages.

As a representative of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, it was my objective to show the necessity of capacity building to any deal addressing climate change. Without essential skills or knowledge, how can any community be expected to implement policy? Furthermore, capacity building must be directed at young women and girls, a demographic disproportionately affected by climate change. Natural disasters and scarce resources exacerbate existing inequalities. But women and girls are in a unique position to address climate change issues. They are often responsible for gathering water and food, and make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many countries. By targeting women and girls, we can truly improve methods of mitigation and adaption.

Looking back, I’m pleased with how far I spread this message. I think everyone I spoke with understood that capacity building is the foundation to any solution. Everything comes down to what we do at home however. Everything you do here makes a difference and contributes to a successful deal in 2015.