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Connecting the Key Voices of Climate Change

December 11, 2015

COP21, we considered how best to engage and connect the numerous communities facing the negative impacts of climate change. The need for significant shifts in policy and decision-making has prompted groups and organizations to think about new approaches to advocacy and awareness.

One example is the #Decarbonize project, which is the world’s largest synthesis of youth research, recommended policy & action on Climate Change. As a part of the initiative, TakingITGlobal in partnership with the Centre for Global Education, Polar Bears International and the Waterloo Global Science Initiative facilitated a dialogue among 10,000 youth through 25,000 hours of collaboration to produce a paper to present during COP21.

The accelerated transformation of ecosystems, the melting of sea ice, and the unprecedented number of droughts demands domestic and international action and commitment from all world leaders. It is important that they not only commit to making the changes necessary to the ecological footprints of their nations, but also that they listen and recognize the voices of those most affected. This was emphasized by Emma and Hanna, high school students from Sweden who represented the #Decarbonize project at COP21, “it is of utter importance to listen to people’s opinions and challenges around the world and take them seriously, and to realize that every local problem is also a global problem, since we all have an impact on our climate and have responsibility for solving the climate crisis.“

Though the effects of climate change vary from region to region, there has been one common thread noted by some of the world’s most prominent researchers and environmentalists: Non-polluters, and isolated communities with limited access to resources, are experiencing and will continue to endure some of the most severe impacts of climate change.

"Reclaiming the Paris Islands in solidarity with the Pacific and Arctic. "As the ice melts under our feet we think of our brothers and sisters fighting for climate justice in the Pacific, today we all stand together!" -- Jenni Laiti
“Reclaiming the Paris Islands in solidarity with the Pacific and Arctic. “As the ice melts under our feet we think of our brothers and sisters fighting for climate justice in the Pacific, today we all stand together!” — Jenni Laiti

In Canada, it is the Indigenous Peoples living in the Arctic that have been the most impacted by geographical and extreme weather changes. As Jack Omelak from the Alaska Nanuuq Commission put it in a webinar hosted in partnership with Polar Bears International, “at times the ones who have the least to offer are being asked to sacrifice the most”.

Polar Bears International, Churchill, Manitoba
Polar Bears International, Churchill, Manitoba

Last week in Paris, Prime Minister Trudeau echoed this notion when he stated, “many of the world’s most vulnerable countries have done little to contribute to the problem, but face the most significant consequences”. With this in mind, it is crucial that we advocate for and support the voices, actions, and demands of those most vulnerable to climate change.  They must have their voices included in the negotiations and outcome text and we must build solidarity to ensure enduring and meaningful relationships for connection and support as the effects of climate change continue.

Understanding the importance of committing to global action, it is young people that have taken the lead in demanding change. Fifteen-year-old Xiuthtezcatl Martinez proved this when he addressed the UN Earth Summit saying, “young people are standing up all over the planet because we see that climate change is a human rights issue… What is at stake is no longer just the planet, no longer just the environment, what is at stake right now is the existence of my entire generation”.


Leveraging its network of global youth and classrooms, TakingITGlobal in collaboration with the Centre for Global Education have diligently worked to ensure that youth from various parts of the world have their voice heard in the negotiations. From Canada, Peru, Australia, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Philippines, Australia, Sweden, Ghana and South Africa, youth have come together in a Global Virtual Town Hall to discuss their vision for the future of their planet.

The culmination of these activities has led to the creation of a Global Youth Whitepaper on Climate Change, which was presented by youth delegates at COP21 involved with the #Decarbonize project. The paper addresses 6 key concerns relating to the transition to a sustainable world, one of which is community resilience.

In fact, it was noted by TIG’s Director of Digital Youth Engagement, Liam O’Doherty, who was also a representative at COP21, “the countries which are seen as most vulnerable are leading the negotiations with bolder commitments and actions. We saw this when the Climate Vulnerable Forum Adopted The Manila-Paris Declaration on the 30th of November. This declaration is the strongest ever call for full decarbonization of the world economy.” This clearly showcases the power of community resilience in fostering and advancing the movement toward positive social and environmental change.

Sarah Magida Toumi

It is the commitment to solidarity, connection, and mutual support that is crucial to the building of community resilience and it is this resilience, which enables society to share and learn from each other and to use that knowledge to better the lives of others.

In recalling his experience at COP21, 19 year old Gerrit Wesselink, Executive Director of Youth Arctic Coalition, stressed the importance of understanding that “the discussions, the proposals, and the solutions are not for each country, but for all of us… It is a small world and only by breaking down the barriers between us, will we realize that we’re all in this together”.

Fostering a sense of connectedness is at the core of this notion. It is when we are willing to learn from and understand each other that we will be able to act collectively to make changes toward a sustainable world. As Prime Minister Trudeau also said in his speech at COP21, “Indigenous people have known for thousands of years about how to care of our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn, and no time to waste.”

Greater connectedness amongst indigenous communities will ultimately lead to greater connectedness, understanding, and resilience in all communities around the world. As was stated by one of the youth delegates, Saket Mani, “solidarity is a good thing, but solidarity with empathy is the most important thing that the world needs right now.”