Think twice before hopping on the plane to Copenhagen

By Si Tingting (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-18 21:29
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Thousands of young people came to Copenhagen bringing circus-like shows and theatrical stunts aimed at pushing negotiators to reach a deal.

Their willingness to take actions against climate change is a big step. But as future leaders, the world needs them to take a further step by becoming more knowledgable about practical solutions as well as environmental policies.

At a BBC World Have Your Say debate on Thursday, 450 young people from around the world gathered to discuss what holds back the ability to reach an effective climate deal.

The two-hour event was filled with emotional pep-talks, but none pointed to real solutions.

A student from the UK said emotionally that “a drastic solution needs to be found for a drastic problem,” and was given huge applause. To me, the message sounded beautiful, but empty.

Only two or three students were able to come up with feasible solutions to climate problems, such as the market mechanism. The BBC host constantly reminded them to talk about concrete actions instead of ridding humanity of selfishness or changing the political system, which even if achievable would take more time than any of us have.

At a news conference with youth delegates from China and U.S., I asked the four young elites on the stage what they would do at COP15 if they were the presidents of their own countries. “This is a tough question,” said one of the US delegates. He finally said he was happy that the youth delegates from both countries had established trust because it’s the cornerstone of future cooperation.

That’s not the kind of answer I would expect.

Personally, I think  young people who came to Copenhagen without a concrete proposal or clear message to pass to the negotiators might have saved themselves the trip. They could have followed negotiation through webcasts and news media, or done some campaigns in their own communities. 

They should have thought twice before hopping on the plane to Copenhagen. Statistics gathered by the conference organizers show that delegates, journalists, activists and observers from almost 200 countries will create 46,200 tons of carbon dioxide, most of it from their flights. This is the same amount produced each year by 2,300 Americans or 660,000 Ethiopians.

Alison Gannett, World Champion extreme freeskier from the U.S., might be a model for them.

Gannett walked more than 200 miles to the Copenhagen conference while carrying a pair of ski boards on her back. By this eco-friendly way of traveling, Gannett not only saved carbon emissions, she also told people she met on the way to save the snow for future generation to enjoy.

Her actions speak louder than stunts, shows and pep-talks.