Now is the time to save our future: Young India to climate summit

December 3rd, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 3 (IANS) “It’s our future that’s being negotiated out here,” says Ruchi Jain. “We can make a difference,” says Avipsa Mahapatra. “We need India to move faster on a green development path,” says Deepanjali Gupta. These voices, which are getting louder, are of the youth who have joined the fight against climate change. All three are part of a nine-member delegation from Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) at the Dec 1-12 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit here. The network, started last year, now has over 700 members and reaches over 200,000 people, almost all below 35.

“There are 700 million people in India below 35,” says Kartikeya Singh of IYCN. “We are the ones most affected by what’s going on here,” he adds, referring to the repeated bickering among more than 3,000 representatives from 186 national governments gathered for the summit.

“We want the government of India to get the country’s youth more engaged in the fight against climate change,” says Ruchi, a postgraduate student in Mumbai University.

“We don’t want to follow the path of other industrialised countries,” says Avipsa, a postgraduate student in Delhi University. “We can make a difference right now.”

Asked what they thought of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) unveiled by the Indian government this June, Kartikeya told IANS: “It’s a good step in the right direction. We’re a little disappointed by the lack of targets and timelines (to move India towards a greener development path) but we understand that is being done.”

What are the delegates doing at the Poznan summit? “We are fighting for climate equity,” says Ruchi, supporting the Indian government’s position that industrialised countries that have added almost all the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are leading to climate change must make deep cuts in their GHG emissions now.

As for India, Ruchi would like the country to follow a greener path to energy generation “as long as our development goals are not compromised. There must be no compromise on the right to life.”

“But our development should be sustainable,” says Avipsa.

Kartikeya has the numbers. “We want greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to be below 350 parts per million (it is 387 now). To achieve that, there must be deep cuts (in GHG emissions), starting with industrialised nations.”

“We must have progressive interim targets (for GHG emission reductions) and good long-term targets,” says Deepanjali, who has finished her degree in Sydney, and is now going home to Vadodara to start working for the IYCN full time. “We need India to move faster.”

What do they do apart from lobbying governments at climate change negotiations? “We’re starting a renewable energy project in a village near Coimbatore (in Tamil Nadu),” Kartikeya told IANS. “We’re going to engage urban youth in rural India.”

Ruchi is all excited about a “climate solutions road trip” that IYCN is going to start from Chennai on Jan 2. Travelling in electric cars powered by solar cells and in a bus that runs on bio-diesel, they will make their way to New Delhi, raising awareness on the way about the perils of climate change and documenting local solutions to the effects of global warming.

They will have with them a “solar-powered rock band” that draws the power for the audio from solar cells. Shiamak Davar’s dance group is choreographing special dance numbers for them now. They plan to arrive in the Indian capital Feb 5, the opening day of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit.

On the opening morning of the Poznan summit, Leela Raina had been standing outside the main entrance, holding up one end of a banner that read: “Join us in saving our future”. In the company of her IYCN colleagues, she sat quietly and nodded till asked what she did in her spare time.

“We have started a group called Campus Climate Challenge,” said Leela. “We have huge problems in our Shri Ram College of Commerce (Delhi University) campus. We are fighting them. Then we work among women in Mandawli village nearby, providing them with micro-finance, helping empower them, and making them aware of how climate change is affecting their daily lives.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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