Climate talk youths call for more trust

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As the negotiations continue at UN climate change conference, or the COP 16, a group of youths from China and the United States sent their message to the delegates, clearly and firmly:"We want the negotiators from both sides to listen to us because their decision will have a huge impact on us."

On the second day of the conference, a group of 30 students and young graduates from both countries talked at the China-US Youth Climate Exchange, hoping to find solutions to enhance understanding between the two big players at the Cancun summit.

Wang Yiting, a member of the Chinese delegation to Copenhagen last year, said the youths are demonstrating "an innovative model of cooperation on climate change" to the two governments.

"We hope to induce more cooperation amongst our governments and more aggressive action in creating and taking leadership on climate and energy solutions."

Majoring in environmental science and international relations at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, Wang said the group is working on potential projects which will bring both Chinese and American students to rural areas in China and find solutions to environmental problems people face there.

"It is different when you see the situation on the ground, especially for us, and that will motivate us to work on better, practical solutions to these environmental problems."

Kevin Osborne, a recent graduate from environmental and Chinese studies at Seattle University, also attended COP 15 in Copenhagen. After meeting the Chinese delegation there, he thought that youths from China and US should step up efforts to start building a better cultural understanding, which he thinks is something needed for negotiators in inside the conference rooms.

"(In this forum), we have this opportunity to know others better on a personal level, to learn about the cultural, political and technical issues, not just for COP 16 but for long term,"said Osborne who visited China four times and is aiming to help build cooperative relationships between China and US.

It has been widely acknowledged that China and US play a significant role in the climate change talks. As the world's biggest emitters, and representing the most developing and developed countries, the two also have some big influence on other negotiators in the conference.

But the youth group thinks that trust building is a key piece that has been missing in these climate talks.

They should collaborate more instead of "blaming each other", said Osborne who initiated the forum project a month ago by reaching out students from seven different environmental non-governmental organizations, including China Youth Climate Action Network, China Dialogue, SustainUS, and Cascade Climate Network.

"The US is constantly blaming China for not doing enough, but the US is not stepping up. This picture is just wrong; we need to continue to build trust–something I don’t hear enough from the politicians," he said.

In the first workshop at the forum, students from both sides gave presentations on cultural differences and the efforts made by both countries on climate change. They wanted to use this forum to come up with an action plan on specific recommendations related to policy, campus projects and others.

"In the midst of the greatest challenge facing our generation, it is our responsibility as future leaders to establish this dialogue now,"emphasized Jared Schy, a member of the Cascade Climate Network.

If the youth can work together, try to listen to each other and understand each other as well as find common solutions, despite differences, why can't the negotiators?

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