“Becca mentioned that we had a Q+A session yesterday. Something interesting that I noticed was that the vast majority of questions asked by the youth delegates from all over the world were about the US inaction in the realm of climate change. Why would such a powerful country not change its policies? Why was its president only staying for the beginning? As an American, it was hard for me to hear these questions—precisely because they were the same ones that I was thinking. In fact, Josh even admitted that he was embarrassed that his country hadn’t committed to solid action. ” [Update 12/02/09] Olivia Zhu, Gr. 11, selected by UNICEF USA to participate in the first-ever Children’s Climate Forum (CCF), is now in Copenhagen, Denmark and reporting on her work there. It may be Europe, but it is not a vacation! Follow her blog at www.environmentaleagles.blogspot.com. Here’s an excerpt from day one:
“Throughout lunch and the plenary sessions of the afternoon, we were able to socialize with and meet many more delegates. I got to talk to Jesús, of Spain, about our shared love of Spanish food. With the group of Chinese delegates, I broke out my stilted Mandarin. Haitian delegate Coralie worked with Fergal, of Ireland, and me on finalizing our subsection of the Urbanization group’s presentation. There were so many amazing people that we met throughout the day and so many different countries represented! I’m so excited to go back tomorrow and meet even more.
“Over lunch, I had an interesting conversation with Daniel of Denmark and Anand of India about the climate policies of our respective countries. We discussed President Obama’s promises and work as well as future directions of the U.S. I think this conversation really highlighted how respectful everyone has been at this conference. Despite differing views, we’re working towards a common goal while cooperating and seeing eye-to-eye after debating a variety of contentious issues.” –Olivia Zhu
Sept. 29, 2009
Olivia Zhu, Gr.11, wants to change the world and before the year is out, she’ll get her chance.
Zhu, Gr. 11, was one of four students selected by UNICEF USA to participate in the first-ever Children’s Climate Forum (CCF), to be held together with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark, in late November and early December.
Organized by UNICEF Denmark, CCF will host teens from 40 nations in hopes of creating “a cadre of young global citizens who understand their role in finding solutions to global concerns, to advance young people’s understanding of global issues, and to provide a platform for them to discuss and advocate on these issues.”
In July, UNICEF USA notified Lauri Vaughan, US librarian, about the CCF competition. She passed the information on to the 32 students who participated in last year’s J8 competition, another UNICEF-sponsored event run parallel to the annual G8 Summit. A team of eight Harker students represented the U.S. in 2007, and in the 2008 competition two Harker teams finished in the top 10 nationally, one as second runner-up.
Two students involved with the 2008 J8 competition also took up the CCF challenge: Carissa Jansen, Gr. 12 and Rohan Bopardikar, Gr. 10, also submitted multi-essay applications despite a tight deadline.
Zhu is passionate about addressing the threatened planetary environment: “Climate change is controversial. What benefits one nation might not help another,” she says. In her application, she emphasized two interventions: incentivizing investment in sustainable energies such as solar, wind and geothermal power, and modernizing electricity grids worldwide.
If arrangements are made for CCF representatives to meet their diplomatic counterparts, as they were at J8, the San Jose junior may get the chance to pass on her ideas to the leader of the U.S. delegation, Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change who was appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year.
“I’m so excited for Copenhagen,” said Zhu, who is busy trying to keep up with news on climate change in preparation for her journey.
As president of Harker’s Future Problem Solving Club, community service organizer for the National Honor Society’s Harker chapter, and member of the Youth Advisory Council for her district in San Jose, Zhu has worked on big-picture issues before, proposing solutions to education problems in California and suggesting policy changes related to youth empowerment to her local council member.
“When I come back, I hope to share everything I learned at Copenhagen,” said Zhu. “It’s important to get as much information about climate change policy out there as possible, as it has a major impact now and will have an even bigger one on future generations.”