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Why the Dutch Youth Delegates Love ACE

donderdag 17 november 2016
Door: Max van Deursen

If you had the choice, what would you prefer, speak at a youth event to one hundred young people or have a cup of coffee with Ban Ki Moon? Well the answer seems obvious, who would let go the chance of meeting Ban Ki Moon, I wouldn’t, you might think.

Dutch youth representatives have met with Ban Ki Moon, and many other high level hotshots, and these meetings were incredibly important. But they are no less important than speaking with young people, educate them on issues relating sustainable development, empowering them to take action, give them access to information and let them participate in decision making processes which are determining their lives.

To tackle climate change we all have to take action, the whole population needs to be aware of the challenges we face and needs to be empowered to take action, ranging from changing your consumption habits, to making ethical choices in your work and to, indeed, participate in political processes.

As youth representatives we speak to more than 2000 young people a year, going from school to school and from event to event. On the one hand, to educate these young people and to empower them to take action, which is vital in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, and, on the other hand to gather their input on issues relating sustainable development. It is our job to transfer this input to decision makers, so that all these young people are participating. We think this all is very importance to reach the goals set out in the Paris agreement and we would love to see way more happening on these things all over the world.

At the UNFCCC Article 6 of the convention has a similar goal, it focusses on public awareness, participation, and access to information, education, training and international cooperation. All tools to empower people to take action on climate change. To make this whole deal sound a little more attractive they recently renamed article 6 to Action for Climate Empowerment, or ACE.

Unfortunately not all countries love ACE as much as we do, they are busy with the big topics of mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and finance, but ACE often has no priority. That is why we lobby for ACE. Now wait a second, lobbying… what does that even mean. Well one way to explain this is by the following example, let’s say you want a vegetarian Christmas dinner, in order to get this done, you might first ask your cousin, who is also a passionate vegetarian, to join you in this effort. Secondly, you start by gently dropping your idea with the people closest to you, for example your brother and sisters. Well, they seem okay with it, but only if it is fine with your parents. And luckily your parents are happy with this idea too, especially after you explained over and over the benefits of this idea. In the meantime your cousin has been active as well, he has convinced his parents and brothers too. The coalition is now big enough to go to the real decision maker, your grand ma! As you are clever, you asked your younger, very cute, nephew to propose the idea to your grand ma, of course she couldn’t say no, especially after a surprisingly large group of people had no problem with the proposal. And so it happens that there is a beautiful vegetarian Christmas meal which would never have existed if you didn’t start lobbying some time ago.

Lobbying for ACE within the UNFCCC process is not exactly the same as lobbying for a vegetarian dinner within your family, but it does illustrate some important concepts. First of all ACE is what they call a relatively uncontroversial topic. Almost all countries have strong opinions about things such as mitigation or finance but when it comes to ACE there are parties that just take it as it comes, like eat the diner as it comes. This makes it possible for a relatively small group to still have a relevant impact. So even though we as youth representative do not expect the whole vegetarian meal this year, maybe some side dishes though, but in the long run our input can be valuable.

In Marrakesh we work together with the YOUNGO ACE working group to make this happen. Below some of the lobby strategies will be discussed. First of all it is important to notice that this lobby from YOUNGO has been alive for many years now, so we don’t start at zero. We are more like some the enthusiastic cousin who recently became vegetarian and joined the ‘lobby’ somewhere in the middle of the process. This year our strategy includes writing a policy paper, organizing bilateral meetings with parties to talk about ACE and making an analysis of how countries are doing when it comes to ACE so that we can more or less benchmark them. Our policy paper is almost like a vegetarian recipe, to explain to your grand ma how you envision your vegetarian dinner. In our policy paper we included recommendations on how countries can enhance ACE, but we also urge them to use our recipe and tell why it is important to do so, or say what is wrong with using other recipes. Meetings with countries are like having meetings with your family to propose your idea of the vegetarian dinner, but different in the fact that we often don’t know countries delegates beforehand, so in our case it is also a tool to enlarge our network and give more delegations our recipe for enhancing ACE. Finally the analysis will be very useful in a later stage to leverage countries that are not doing extremely well and hold them accountable for their actions.

To summarize, ACE is of vital importance in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. In order to transition to a sustainable society we need people to be educated on climate change and to let them participate in this transition. Countries have just like us the job to make this a priority, both in conversations with Ban Ki Moon as well as the implementation on the National level.

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