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Issue #1759      November 30, 2016

As Trump’s dark cloud rises

As naïve as we may have been, many like me didn’t expect a climate denier, who believes climate change is “a Chinese hoax” to bulldoze his way to one of the most powerful offices in the world. There is no hiding it, Donald Trump’s election is a huge blow.

Young people from around the world have spent a fortnight inside the conference centre in Marrakesh making their voices heard, organising actions and giving speeches calling for climate action in the name of future generations and the most vulnerable.

And yet, youth delegations have left the conference feeling bitter. We were told this would be a Conference of Paris (COP) action, but instead it was one of postponements.

Most decisions have been deferred to an inter-session in Bonn next May, which most of us will not be able to attend.

There is a heart-breaking sentiment that we are being squeezed out of the decision-making process, which lacks real transparency.

We cannot excuse governments for making so little progress to kick-start ambitious climate action in line with the Paris Agreement but the US election results sent shockwaves through the conference centre and diverted its aims.

Trump epitomises everything youth are fighting against. For some, the fight started years ago, others were not even born when the climate negotiations first took place back in 1992.

Gutted, frustrated, angry, sad – it would be unfair to say these are not feelings we share as youth, when we imagine our future.

The Trump-dominated narrative created by the media and governments reaffirming their commitments to implement the Paris deal left little space for effective decision making. Meanwhile the clock for urgent action is ticking.

We don’t have another life time to spare to talk about beliefs, values and principles. This is no longer about our children’s children but about the shores of the Marshall Islands and Fiji, which are being submerged by rising sea levels right now.

The US election has highlighted the lack of leadership within the climate talks and we, young people, are now calling on our respective governments to step in and fill that gap. Developing countries have already taken the lead. Indeed, 47 countries organised in the Climate Vulnerable Forum pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. This is what we must all aspire to.

Trump is one powerful man but I believe the power of united youth and grassroots movements is stronger.

Many US cities such as Miami are already conducting major work to raise the level of their streets, which are threatened by the melting of the Arctic and rising sea levels.

But Trump alone cannot stop us. During the conference, delegates from the state of California said they will deliver on their promises regardless of the new president-elect’s stance on climate change. Meanwhile, hundreds of businesses, including household names such as Starbucks, have urged Trump not to pull out of the Paris Agreement, as they fear the US would miss out on critical economic opportunities.

These rays of hope need to be nurtured to flourish into an empowered climate movement.

The US election dashed the momentum gathered during last year’s COP21 in Paris, but it did not weaken the global climate movement. On the contrary, it showed the even greater need to increase pressure on our governments so they align their actions to the 1.5C target. Looking ahead, the youth seems stronger and more determined than ever to continue the fight for climate justice back home.

European youth, including the UK Youth Climate Coalition which I am a part of, have built bridges with peers to form better partnerships throughout the year and youth delegations from the global south are also mobilising into regional networks for climate action.

As we leave Marrakesh, we are reminded these annual climate conferences are moments on our campaigning trial but they cannot be the only catalyst for change. The real work starts now.

New Internationalist

Next article – Dingo

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