Day 3 of COP17 was a very limited day for me. As part of the University of Cape Town delegation at the conference i was required to work at the universities information booth. Because of this i was unable to attend any plenary sessions (official negotiating sessions). The extended time in the booth did however allow me the opportunity to think about a few questions that seemed to be on the minds of many of the youth at the conference.
This question dealt with the thought of whether the youth presence at the conference actually made a difference. As an member of a youth organisation at the conference my voice and involvement falls under YOUNGO, the UNs official youth representatives. Any and all interaction is done through this body. A result of this YOUNGO was my direct link to the secretariat and how i interacted with them. This 'at arms length' perspective meant that there was a decidedly biased impression put forth to the youth. Do not misunderstand me, i do see the reason for this segmented system. What it brought to my attention was the fact that any and all actions planned, any opinions given or any discomfort felt by the youth with official negotiations was diluted and censored by those who represented YOUNGO.
The long stretches of time also brought the following to my attention. If opinions of the represented youth were so watered down, what actual difference do they make? The official answer to this question is that all views are considered and taken into account, but the real answer is far less politically correct. Honestly this soapbox given to the youth is simply to keep them quiet. If any sort of negotiations came down to it would the executive take the side of a wealthy business which funds them or a handful of tree hugging kids? which side would you take? This cynical view clouded most of the day and resulted in not much actually being done.
Inbetween my working periods of great cynicism i did get the opportunity to take part in a session which looked into the various funding sources of coal mining and electricity generators who make use of coal to generate their electricity. This session brought to light many injustices around the world along with many other it highlighted circumstances in India where in many mines it was reported that there are children as young as 8 who work underground in the coal mines. This session perfectly showed the duality that is the climate change debate. On one hand there are coal mines who destroy the environment and reap massive rewards for this unbridled greed. Yet it is those same coal mines who employ tens of thousands of people and in turn provide a livelihood for hundreds of thousands more. This need for balancing between the environment and the economy could noted as one of the major causes for the delay in climate negotiations.