The Youths Who Bring the Change the World Needs

     Youth representatives from all over the world meeting with the United Nations Secretary General. (credited to UN SG Office)

3 December 2018, Katowice – I was selected by the Youth Constituency of United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (YOUNGO) to represent the Malaysian Youth Delegation and Malaysia in the Youth Session with United Nations Secretary General (UN-SG), His Excellency, Mr. Antonio Guterres.

Shaqib Shahril representing Malaysia and the Malaysian Youth Delegation in the bilateral meeting.

It was a fruitful discussion with the UN Secretary General regarding youth participation in the UN and the UN Bodies’ processes. Before getting into the details of the discussion with UN Secretary General, there was another person that had been invited to the bilateral meeting as well; her name is Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish girl who is famous on social media and in European due to her participation in protests in front of the Swedish Parliament and on the subject of Climate Action.

From left to right: Mr. Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary General), Greta Thunberg from Sweden, and Mrs. Patricia Espinosa (Executive Secretary of UNFCCC) (credited to UN SG Office)

She spoke with a natural confidence regarding the reality of the climate regime in this world, and for several of us including me cried in the bilateral meeting. Below is the unedited speech given by her:

“For 25 years, countless people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nation’s’ leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So I will not ask them anything. Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis. Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us. Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

Rich countries like Sweden have to start reducing their emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2-degree target. You would think the media and every one of our leaders would be talking about nothing else – but no one ever even mentions it. Nor does hardly anyone ever talk about that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.

Furthermore does no one ever talk about the aspect of equity clearly stated everywhere in the Paris Agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions, within 6-12 years with today’s emission speed, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity and clean drinking water. Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don´t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?

So when school started in August this year I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish Parliament. I school striked [sic] for the climate. Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can´t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge and since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

Official Picture the Youth Constituency of UNFCCC (YOUNGO) with the UN Secretary General. (credited to UN SG office)

After Greta’s speech, Nekhil Prassad delivered a speech on behalf of YOUNGO with a focus on strengthening the relationship between YOUNGO and the Secretary General’s Office, while highlighting the importance of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C in the UN process and the process of “Just Transition”; a transition from fossil fuel-dependent economic models to a fossil fuel-independent model. After Nekhil Prassad’s speech, YOUNGO requested that the Office of the UN Secretary General call upon member states to step up climate finance urgently, replenish the financial mechanisms, and increase the participation of youth in the UN and UN Bodies’ processes with initiatives such as scholarships as well.

Written by Shaqib Shahril
Edited By M. O. Denney

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