Paris summit: Youths warn of disastrous impact

Young people warn that failure to achieve an agreement in Paris will not only have a disastrous impact on environmental issues but will also undermine key social problems.

New Delhi: Youths of four nations including India have warned that failure to reach an accord in the upcoming Paris climate change summit will not only have "disastrous" impact on environmental issues but will also undermine key social problems.

The view was highlighted in a new climate change report "Climate Action: Youth Voices" in which youths were approached to ascertain their view and knowledge on climate change and the forthcoming conference in Paris.

Although the youths of Europe and Asia were hopeful of an internationally binding agreement at the Paris COP21 later this month, the study also found "skepticism" in them that the agreement will be fully ratified and enforced.

There was also a lack of awareness amongst the youths about the Paris climate change summit but all agreed that political leadership will be vital in reaching an accord.

The report was published by Professor Matthew Hibberd, Head of Communications, Media and Culture at University of Stirling, and Alka Tomar from the Centre for Environment Communication.

"In the research conducted, young people warn however that failure to achieve an agreement in Paris will not only have a disastrous impact on environmental issues but will also undermine key social problems that have been worsened by climate change," the study said.

The study was conducted to ascertain views on climate change of youths. Institutions from the four countries, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK, CEC, New Delhi, LUISS University, Rome in Italy and USSH University of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, were involved and around 800 youths and organisations were interviewed.

"While youth hope for an agreement (at proposed Paris meet), there is also skepticism that any agreement will be fully ratified and enforced, partly as a failure by many countries to respect the Kyoto Accords," Professor Matthew Hibberd said.

Alka Tomar emphasised the need to draw youth into climate change discussions.

"For a sustainable tomorrow, it is critical that we engage and mainstream youth in climate change discourses and solutions to create a future generation of climate conscious citizens," she said after the report was launched here.

The study said that another problem highlighted by youths was the issue of migration where participants saw a direct and causal link between crop failure, extreme weather and climate change.

The group of participants also emphasised the issue of 'free riders' - those who seek to evade responsibility for climate change whether they are individuals or nations.

There is also broad consensus among youth on the need to link climate change to other social challenges such as poverty alleviation, disease control and prevention.

However, paradoxically, climate change is not generally viewed as young people's main priority, especially in India and Vietnam, while poverty remains such a stain on contemporary societies, the study said.

Hibberd said that young people do not see climate change as a different issue but one of many social issue. "Climate change is linked to the minds of focussed group to poverty and finding a solution to climate change will find solutions to poverty aleviation, they argued.

"Political leadership will be vital, the youths said. Leadership from both UN but also big countries without which any agreement will not be possible mainly from US, China, France, UK and Russia, permanent members of UN Security Council. Also other nations like Canada and Australia, BRICS nations, Brazil and India.

"Young people feel that big countries which will help to come to an agreement. Some mention was also made about the pivotal role of US in finding any agreement. US helped in shaping Kyoto protocols but failed to ratify that. Today young people are looking to President Barack Obama to help push towards a progressive and peaceful agreement and a legally binding agreement. Young people argue that this will be vital to his legacy," he said.

Youth across four countries said that politicians cannot always be trusted and that is why they are looking for businesses, NGOs, institutions and others.

In places like Delhi, despite the Metro system, more needs to be done, the youth told the researchers. Climate change is for all and should not allow any exclusions especially for big countries.

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