Road to Paris via Lima


Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) Position Paper for COP20 Lima (Summary)

Drafted by Ram Kishen, Supriya Singh, Reva Prakash in consultation with IYCN members and other relevant stakeholders. 

By 2020, India is set to become the youngest country in the world with 64 percent of its population below the age of 35, and with an average age of 29 years (United Nations IRIS Knowledge Foundation Report 2012). Experts point out that the demographic dividend that such a young population can yield for a nation is immense. This makes youth an important and one of the biggest constituencies in India especially when it comes to the question of climate change. For amongst others, youth will bear the brunt of policy and practice of action and inaction by today’s leaders on climate change, making inter-generational equity an important conceptual anchor that the leaders of today, world over, will have to recognize as one of the central principles when drafting a blue-print for our future.

COP 20Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) as a network of young people are concerned about the growing risks emanating from a changing climate and threat multiplier effect it will have on some of the key challenges that India and the world faces, namely poverty, malnutrition, health, stress on food and water availability and general degradation of the ecosystems due to rapid and un-planned urbanization. In face of this predicament, IYCN stresses the need for collective action on matters of science, ecology and environment with knowledge-enabled Youth as the leaders at the forefront of a transformation of systems and economy on a low-carbon, equitable and just pathway. It recognizes that youth as an important agent at the heart of climate change response can effect a course-correction globally towards a system that is carbon-neutral by the second half of this century. We believe that such a transformation is not only necessary but is achievable. In this transformation, vulnerabilities of different communities, groups and nations should be recognized and that these concerns take precedence over other actions – as the vulnerabilities will be further exacerbated in a rapidly changing climate constrained world.

Given the stakes that youth have in the process, it is imperative that youth understand and engage with the climate and developmental policy at different levels – local, state, national, regional and international. IYCN was created with an aim to address the lacuna of coherent and informed youth voices in international and national politics in the country as well as in the subcontinent. COP 13 in Bali highlighted the lack of youth voices from India. As a result, IYCN was born and in the following years was able to mobilise resources to send informal youth delegations as civil society at the COPs.  The delegation attending COP 14 in Poznan in 2008 created a ripple effect that led to creation of youth movements from other parts of global south, chiefly among them – Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  Agents of Change program gives youth the ring-side view of the climate negotiations that have important implications for their future. It strengthens the understanding of youth on the highly difficult and complex task of policy making given the reality of international politics, and thereby that of differentiated and disproportionate power of wealth, affluence, knowledge- that countries of the global north exert over those of the global south. IYCN appreciates the complexity of the challenge that youth have to encounter and stresses on the need for capacity building through education, training and research on various aspects of climate change, its politics and policy-making.

By 2015, global community is expected to reach consensus on the nature and modalities of “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all Parties”[1] with an aim to ‘preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system”.[2]  In the 2014 Assessment Report- 5 of Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific body that provides the basis for international response to climate change, climate change will have devastating effects on South-Asia. In the region, average annual temperature could rise by more than 2°C over land in most of South Asia by the mid-21st century and exceed 3°C under a high emissions scenario. By mid-21st century southern areas of Asia will experience more rainfall. It will be even more extreme near the centers of tropical cyclones making landfall in South Asia. Magnitude of sea level rise by the century’s end implies increased risks for South Asia’s coastal settlements particularly if combined with changes in cyclone frequency or intensity. It will lead to submergence, coastal flooding, and erosion. Climate change will cause declines in agricultural productivity in many sub-regions of Asia, for crops such as rice and wheat. This could lead to higher food prices and living costs, malnutrition, and worsened rural poverty. Higher latitudes will see more biodiversity loss while marine population will decline in tropical latitudes. Increased risk of flooding will pose a threat to infrastructure, livelihoods, and settlements. Heat related mortality will increase. The AR5 report clearly reflects the increased risks and threats that South Asia will face as a region. In the region, Bangladesh is ranked as one of the vulnerable countries, with India (2), Nepal (4) and Pakistan (16) trailing close behind (Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2011).

India is ranked as one of the most disaster prone nations in the world and characterised as being at extreme risk – the impacts of higher average temperatures, more erratic precipitation, extreme weather events and sea level rise are being felt in India. As the world rapidly warms, its millions of people living in abject poverty in India are at risk of becoming frontline victims. It is predicted that average temperature rise in India would be to the tune of four degrees[3], and will be accompanied by increasing water crisis, threat to food security, increase in floods and land erosion. Climate change is going stretch the capacity of the government to handle added stresses. Impacts of climate change on various sectors are already experienced in India, particularly on human life, livelihood and overall economy. The loss and damage from climate induced events have held back India from achieving MDGs and have the potency to increase further risk of human losses, asset damages and, therefore, loss of opportunities to develop further.

Against this backdrop of rising climate uncertainty, and as important stakeholders – the role of youth becomes significant in bringing a greater degree of urgency and rationality to the decision- making process at international negotiations as well as domestic politics.

India with its huge coastline and delicate mountain ecology in the north, changing monsoons- a majority of its population of 1.2 billion will risk lives, livelihoods and a general level of security with extreme weather event becoming a regular phenomena leading to severe loss and damage.

In this regard, IYCN felt it is important to understand the perception of youth in India on climate change and articulate their position on some key issues. This paper presents here the views captured in the survey on youth perception on climate change and policy, focused group discussion and individual discussions held during workshops conducted by IYCN across six major cities covering 500 participants. ‘Climate Perception Survey of Youth in India’ was filled by 400 from all over the country over internet and during workshops. The survey which is currently underway to capture responses as diverse a group across regions, states, cities and classes is for the people in the age group of 18-35 on some leading questions with an aim to decode their perception and position on the issue.

The results from the 400 recorded responses on October 11, 2014 show that an overwhelming majority (97% of the participants) said they are aware of climate change, with the main source of their information being newspapers, social media, TV shows, and academic institutions. 93% of the respondents think that ‘climate change will affect them and those around them.’ On the question- ‘Do you believe that it is caused by human beings?’ – 50% responded by strongly agreeing, 40 % by agreeing and only 1% who either disagreed or strongly disagreed. IPCC in its AR5 report states that there is ‘greater than 95% chance that human activities are the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950s.’ The certainty has increased from 90% to 95% from the AR4 and AR5. The majority youth perception on climate change being anthropogenic is thus consistent with what science tells us. It is also instructive to note here that 62% of the respondents answered in affirmatively to the question of ‘Do you think we can control climate change?’, while 26 % responded with a ‘maybe’, 7% answered ‘no’ and 1%  said they ‘don’t know’.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which occurs in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time and periods.’ UNFCCC also recognizes the role involving youth in the matters of climate change was recognized by the United Nations Systems which works in collaboration with the United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change (Joint Framework Initiative).

IYCN believes that the perception of youth is a strong indicator to tell the world leaders that responsibility of emissions as well as that of taking action rests with humans, and along with the increasing scientific certainty – perception of an important constituency on the issue should give necessary impetus to strengthen the political will of world leaders to take immediate and adequate response to prevent run-away climate change that the world seems adamant on leaping towards.

Thus, as climate change builds elevated levels of insecurity about our future and amidst this uncertainty; there is only one thing certain that we shall leave our planet to our children, the future generations – today’s youth. The swift environmental changes demand humanity to not think in terms of years and decades, but across centuries and generations, where choices made today shall have a spill over effect on climate across the coming years. This recognizes the high need of making the youth aware about the challenges and opportunities that will come along the science and policy of climate change. The onset of COP20, to be held in Lima this year in December, will have IYCN play a very important role as it will take the voice of climate change movement of Indian youth from the grassroots level to the global arena.

We Demand That:

  • Equity and justice and CBDRRC must be the central element of the ADP work plan. Parties must come up with ideas on process of incorporating equity in implementation work plan along with the other principles of Art 3 of the Convention.
  • Parties to UNFCCC fulfill their commitments under Kyoto Protocol (KP): discussion to close the Gigatonne Gap and ensure world does not overshoot average temperature raise of 2⁰C and set a path towards 1.5⁰C   in 2100.
  • Ad hoc Durban Platform (ADP) workplan must ensure the crucial balance between the developed and developing countries in terms of resources and burden sharing in emission reduction.
  • ADP, shall in no way, renegotiate the principles of convention. However must build upon the already existing principles agreed by the Parties of the Convention.
  • All means of implementation should be addressed in a balanced way keeping the ADP manageable and provide it with the opportunity to deliver in a timely manner, without any delay.

That the governments world – wide reach an agreement to spend a percentage of their GDP into education, research& development to enhance capacities of the societies to cope with climate change and empowering communities across the spectrum.

[1] The current mandate of Ad-Hoc Durban Platform.

[2] Stated objective of UNFCCC.

[3] National Climate Assessments, adapted by Econ Poyry

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