UBC students to take part in UN conference on climate change

This November, five UBC undergraduate students will be participating in Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. A UN conference on climate change, it will focus on the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA), the Kyoto Protocol and the effects of the United States’ recent exit from the PCA ratification process.

For the students, they will be involved in this process through YOUNGO, the youth constituency of the conference that is made up of both youth-focused groups and individuals.

“All the youth of the world are represented through YOUNGO, and through this, we can lobby parties and countries,” said Benjamin Georges-Picot, a second-year arts student. “We can interact with these countries to advocate for more environmental policies, furthering our goals and better objectives down the road.”

Their involvement is also facilitated by the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). As a partner of the Climate Action Network (CAN), the organization works to implement the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and monitors Canada’s progress with climate action treaties, like the Paris Climate Agreement.

In particular, they will be representing British Columbian youth’s interests on climate action and sustainable development as part of the BC Youth Delegation, which is housed under BCCIC.

“The policies being worked on at this convention have ramifications for every single person on earth, and in order for us to achieve these targets that we set out, we require global cooperation,” said Colton Kasteel, a fourth-year international economics major. “That’s what we’re setting out to do, advocate for a better future, and we will work with every single country to do that.”

Kasteel, who also advocates for climate finance within the Youth Delegation, further emphasized the importance of their presence at the conference.

“It’s a pretty pivotal time to take action regarding climate change, and I think representing BC youth specifically is pretty huge,” Kasteel said. “Our province really drives a lot of green initiatives and green voices. It’s exciting and it’s important.”

To Keila Stark, a fourth-year marine biology and political science student, taking part in the conference is even more important for students with a science background like herself.

“I have a science background ... and I strongly believe that scientists don’t play enough of a role in politics,” said Stark. “I’d like to be a part of that movement of the next generation of scientists that’s comfortable with going to conferences like this and participating in this kind of discourse.”

In preparation for the conference, the youth delegation is working with student-led organizations on campus for feedback and consultations on youth engagement.

“Every single one of us are more than happy to talk to any UBC student about their opinions on this things [and] they are more than welcome to reach out and express their opinions on policy, science or economics or anything that intersects,” said Kasteel.

“We want to really truly represent their voices.”