‘Every metric ton of CO2 claims human lives’

‘This is a climate crisis, so we need a crisis management strategy.’ Aniek Moonen and Zoë de Jonge are members of the Youth Climate Movement. They’re travelling on the climate train to Glasgow to attend COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference. ‘We’ve got to do absolutely everything we can.’

Aniek and Zoe on their way
Aniek and Zoë on their way to Glasgow to attend COP26.

Why was the Youth Climate Movement founded in 2016?

Aniek: ‘Young people were under-represented, their voice was not being heard. The Youth Climate Movement combines 60 youth movements, giving a total of 100,000 young people a voice. Within the movement, 70 volunteers work together in various working groups. The We Are Tomorrow Global Partnership (WAT-GP ) is one of them.’

Zoë: ‘WAT-GP was set up to connect young people in the 16-to-32 age group worldwide. Because together, they have a stronger voice. Young people in Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa and Uganda talk to their peers in their own country to find out how they view the future, and to convert this into a vision for 2050.’

Why have these eleven countries been chosen?

Zoë: ‘We work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And we have close ties with the embassies. Through these contacts, we found youth organisations in these eleven countries that were open to collaboration. We now want to add two more countries in Europe and countries in South America and East Asia to our network.’

What are your own reasons for committing to climate action?

Aniek: ‘Every metric ton of CO2 we emit claims 226 human lives. Extreme heat in the summer causes excess deaths, for example. I see that we can still turn the tide, that we still have opportunities to take action. I want to highlight and seize those opportunities.’

Zoë: ‘It’s depressing to hear about everything that’s going wrong. But there are solutions, and these are my inspiration. I’m happy if I can contribute. By deciding to stop eating meat, you can have an impact, you can even save lives. I’m particularly concerned about climate migrants, because their number is growing.’  

Klimaatjongeren Aniek en Zoe
Aniek is chair of the Youth Climate Movement. Zoë is chair of the We Are Tomorrow Global Partnership.

What are you planning to do at COP26 in Glasgow?

Zoë: ‘Young people from almost all of our partner countries will be coming to Glasgow. They’re going to hand over their vision documents to the policy officers from their own countries. Their aim is to step up their countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions, because these could certainly be a lot more ambitious. With the commitments to date, global warming is set to reach 2.7 degrees Celsius. We’re going to talk to politicians, policy officers and members of the business community on achieving young people’s ambitions.’

Together with the UN youth representatives and Sail for the Future, you are organising an event on involving young people in climate policy. Why is that so important?

Zoë: ‘We are experts on how we want to lead our lives in the future. Many of the people who are now deciding on the future will no longer be with us in 2075.  But we’ll still be around. That’s why we must have a say in the steps that need to be taken now. We want to have all the information, we want a seat at the table, and we want to provide input.’

Aniek: ‘It’s a waste not to use young people, who often have fresh, innovative ideas. Governments should facilitate young people’s developing their vision, because we can’t compete with the big lobbyists.’ 

What are you lobbying for?

Aniek: ‘Screening policy for its impact on future generations. It should be compulsory for government authorities to show the long-term effects of policy on the ecosystem – not only for the next five years, but also for the next 50 to 100 years. The UK has a climate authority, the Climate Change Committee, that oversees compliance with targets for CO2 emissions. This committee advises on the basis of scientific knowledge. We should have a committee like this in the Netherlands too.’

What do you expect from the negotiations?

Aniek: ‘First of all, that countries meet the commitments they made under the Paris Agreement. Five years ago we agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Five years on, the conclusion is clear. We’re not going to achieve our targets. So I expect some very major steps. The only solution is climate justice and solidarity.’

What do you mean by climate justice and solidarity?

Zoë: ‘The countries that are mainly responsible for climate change should make the greatest commitment to solving this problem. Wealthy countries have pledged to spend $100 million on climate finance. But they haven’t met their commitments. By solidarity we mean that we are all in this together. Even if a country hasn’t contributed as much to climate change, we need to work together to seek solutions. We all need to take responsibility for the effects of climate change. If Bangladesh is hard hit by floods, for example, other countries should contribute to its reconstruction.’

Finally, what really needs to improve?

Aniek: ‘There’s still no sense of urgency. This is a climate crisis. It calls for a crisis management strategy, with far-reaching solutions.’

Zoë: ‘It’s really frustrating that everyone’s waiting for everyone else. Businesses don’t need to wait for governments, governments don’t need to wait for individuals, and no country needs to wait for another. We’ve got to do absolutely everything we can, because we’re already feeling the effects of climate change.’