Yesterday, I sat in the plenary hall, grinding my teeth as I waited for Todd Stern to speak. After several briefings with United States negotiators, I felt deflated about their lack of leadership. Furthermore, the sentiment that the U.S. has “done enough” by increasing fuel efficiency standards almost made my eyes pop out of my head. Particularly in a space like COP17, where ambassadors from Small Island Developing States and African nations are sharing stories and science about the real effects of climate change, it is apparent that moving to 50 mpg is not going to address climate change. Pushing long term agreements to 2020 misses the peak emissions goal. These are all concepts I have learned quickly over the last few weeks, as a new delegate to the COP process.
As Todd Stern was introduced and reminded to stick to his three minute speaking slot, Abigail Borah stood up a few rows ahead of me and started to shout what I could only dream of articulating.
Her speech was met with rapt attention from the plenary, and a warm round of cheers as she was escorted from the room by UN Security. I think her message should be heard far and wide, because it resounded with me as a U.S. youth who is incredibly disappointed in the role of United States negotiators at COP17. Read on to see what Abigail communicated to the plenary yesterday afternoon:
"I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.
You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable.
You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions. You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations. Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.
We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait."
--Abigail Borah, December 8, 2011