The power of a growing youth climate movement

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Alison Williams of UNGA-Link sent this link to a 10 minute address at a High Level General Assembly Event on 29th June. She wrote: “You may find this young man quite inspiring; I did 🙂

A search revealed a good account by Stephanie Spear on the Ecowatch website which gave the background: “On 29 June 2015, President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Sam K. Kutesa, hosted the High-level Event on Climate Change at UN Headquarters. Leaders from government, civil society and the private sector presented many climate action initiatives to provide political momentum toward an ambitious climate change agreement at COP21 in Paris in December”.

Five months before the COP 21 UN Climate talks in Paris, fifteen-year-old indigenous climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez and actor and environmental advocate Robert Redford met yesterday after they had addressed the United Nations to encourage global action on climate change.

un aztec redfordun650[1]Photo credit: Vanessa Black

Xiuhtezcatl is the youth director of a non profit organization Earth Guardians. He was raised in the Aztec tradition and has been an active campaigner since the age of six. Now 15, he was selected to speak in an open, transparent and participatory process at the Opening Ceremony from among 200 applicants through a process facilitated by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Martinez called on delegates to “dream big”, saying, “It’s time to look to the skies for the solutions we need, because the future of energy is not down a hole.”

The young activist asked the delegates to imagine what could be accomplished if fossil fuel and nuclear subsides were reinvested into renewable energy. The International Monetary Fund estimates global fossil fuel subsidies are close to $10 million every minute.

“The solutions are here, and they are bringing with them millions of jobs and economic opportunity,” he said.

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Xiutezcatl emphasized the power of a growing youth climate movement:

“Everywhere young people are rising up and taking action to solve the issues that will be left to our generation … Over 400,000 people marched in through the streets of New York City in the world’s greatest climate march. More than 220 institutions have divested from fossil fuels with the help of student-led movements and the number continues to grow. Youth are suing their state and federal governments across the United States, demanding action on climate change from our elected officials. We are flooding the streets and now we are flooding the courts to get the world to see there is a movement on the rise and we are at the forefront, fighting for the solutions we need.”

Despite the challenging circumstances Xiuhtezcatl urged optimism, calling on delegates to stand with youth leaders. “In the light of a collapsing world, what better time to be alive than now, because our generation gets to change the course of history,” he said. “Humans have created the greatest problem we face today, but the greater the challenge the higher we will rise to meet it. We need you to be a climate leader—not to stand up for us, but to stand with us.”

As his speech concluded, Xiuhtezcatl asked, “Who will rise with me now for mine and future generations to inherit a healthy just and sustainable planet?” Many of the delegates briefly and symbolically rose from their seats in support.

Watch both speeches on the Ecowatch website: http://ecowatch.com/2015/06/30/xiuhtezcatl-robert-redford/2/

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