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NEWS / Acclimatise Eyewitness: Successful Regional Workshop leaves young Latin American climate leaders better prepared for challenge ahead
Category: Features, Government & Policy

Image by CliMates

Words by Antoine Ebel

Last Friday, the Regional Workshop organized by CliMates in Bogotá, Colombia, came to a close. As I explained in my previous article describing the first two days of the event, it focused on climate issues in the Latin America & Caribbean (LAC) region, with the specific aim of giving Latin American youth the chance to prepare (well in advance!) for the 20th round of UN climate negotiations (COP20), which will be hosted by Peru in 2014.

The second half of the week-long conference day began with a question: “How can young people influence international processes?” A simple question, with many difficult answers. Since the traumatising failure of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 (COP15), young people have been wondering whether they should stay fully invested in UN processes, keep just one foot in, or withdraw entirely. All options have merits: while international climate negotiations remain a strategic area for young people to voice their concerns, their continuous presence at COPs can also be perceived as legitimizing an underachieving process.

The consensus among attendees was that that UNFCCC was one, and not the, avenue for young people to influence climate change decision-making. It was felt that advocacy at the international level could help make local projects more influential and effective.

Participants then took part in a series of “power-mapping” exercises, aimed at helping them to better map out the various actors pertinent to climate change in the LAC region: from the climate stances of religious organizations, to the position of Bolivia in COPs and the role of regional alliances in shaping the climate change discussion. In the afternoon, as the vast majority of the group enjoyed some free time to discover the city, two brave participants stayed behind to teach local Bogotá high schools students the basics of climate science and the potential of entrepreneurship as a solution.

Thursday, after a recap of the main issues of COP20 and 21, was the time for some money talk. Specifically issues relating to how to generate it with the common good in mind (social entrepreneurship), how to gain more of it (fundraising), how to prevent it from going to the wrong places (anti-corruption) and how to manage it. All topics which are critical to make local climate projects thrive in a region still crippled by suspicions of fraud, money laundering, and monetary restrictions.

The closing sessions, investigated the role of eco-innovation to bring about environmental change, and the capacity of the “green” and “blue” economies to achieve sustainable development. They highlighted the fact that sustainability is not an additional criterion of financial success, a sub-genre of mainstream economics. It is the future of economic activity and should be a cornerstone of economic theory.

Friday went by in a rush. After a session delivering the key points from the IPCC’s 5th Assessment report, which had been released only a few hours before, it was time for the final strategy-building. Bringing together all of the learning, the discoveries, and the connection made over the week, participants decided to build a movement that looked very much like them, and the Workshop they had participated in. Called ¡Clic!, it will be a community of young LAC climate leaders, sharing skills and knowledge through how-to’s and webinars; building toolkits and offering advice to replicate their most inspiring and innovative projects across the region; increasing the presence and influence of young people at the COPs; and finally, promoting their activities through engaging, accessible communication.

What will become of ¡Clic!? It is difficult to tell at this stage. But, as each and every one of the participants presented their personal commitments for the future during the closing ceremony, it was clear that they were off to the best possible start



Antoine Ebel is a member of the Acclimatise Contributor Network. He is the President of CliMates, an international, student-led think-and-do-tank elaborating and implementing innovative solutions to climate change through collaborative research and action projects around the world.