Stop blaming each other, youth group tells negotiators

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As negotiations continue at the UN climate change conference, a group of youths from China and the United States have sent a clear and firm message to the delegates: Stop blaming and start trusting each other.

On the second day of the conference, 30 students and young graduates from both countries put their heads together at the China-US Youth Climate Exchange, hoping to find ways to enhance understanding between the two big players at Cancun.

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 among our governments and more aggressive action in creating and taking leadership on climate and energy solutions," Wang said.

Wang, who majors in environmental science and international relations at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, said the group is working on projects that will bring Chinese and American students to China's rural areas and find solutions to environmental problems 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," Wang said.

Kevin Osborne, a recent graduate in environmental and Chinese studies at Seattle University, also attended the Copenhagen summit. After meeting Chinese there, he thought that youth from China and the US should step up efforts to build better cultural understanding, which he thinks is needed for negotiators.

"(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 has visited China four times and wants to build cooperative relationships between China and the US.

It has been widely acknowledged that China and the US play a significant role in climate change talks. As the world's biggest emitters, and representing the biggest developing and developed countries, the two have a wide reach on other negotiators at the talks.

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

Negotiators should collaborate more instead of "blaming each other", said Osborne who initiated the forum project a month ago by reaching out to students from seven different environmental nongovernmental organizations, including the 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," he said.

"This picture is just wrong; we need to continue to build trust - something I don't hear enough from the politicians."

In the first workshop at the forum, students from both sides gave presentations on cultural differences and efforts made by both countries on climate change. They want to use this forum to develop specific recommendations related to policy, campus projects and others.

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

He said if young people can listen to and understand each other, and find solutions despite differences, "Why can't negotiators?"

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