(Editor's note: Lucky us — we have a Hoosier correspondent in Paris for the climate change talks that are now underway. Lauren Kastner is on the Board of Directors of Earth Charter Indiana in 2015 and is a national youth leader with the Sierra Student Coalition.)
Today, youth from the United States are demanding an equitable climate agreement from the historic climate talks at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21). All eyes are on Paris as the second week of high-stakes climate negotiations begin.
Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change through the Department of State, represents one of the world’s major powers during this week’s climate talks, but remains elusive to the general American public. In an effort to apply pressure this morning, a storm grew on Twitter as U.S. youth are tweeting @StateDept with the hashtag #DearToddStern to show they are watching and to demand the strong climate agreement the world needs. Tweets are anticipated to peak on Wednesday, December 10 and will be aggregated on Tumblr throughout the negotiating week.
“Considering he is the most powerful individual on the U.S. negotiating team and has the ability to make or break the deal, Todd Stern has avoided being in the spotlight for far too long,” said Jessica Olson, a resident of San Francisco, California and a member of a youth delegation to COP21. “Youth are sending a clear message that we care about climate action and we are watching the negotiations closely.”
The decentralized campaign is the product of collaboration across youth activists in Paris and elsewhere and acts as a rallying cry at the end of a marathon week of negotiations. With Paris as the final roadstop on the way to a historic agreement, U.S. youth are not just hoping for ambition from the U.S. negotiating team; they are doing everything they can to demonstrate how climate change is already having tangible impacts in local communities.
Organizers of the Twitter storm believe there is a critical need to show Todd Stern that this issue requires bold leadership. The youth at COP21 are seeking 100% clean energy by 2030, a 1.5 degree long-term goal, and preservation of human rights and equity protections and a mechanism to address losses and damages resulting from climate change.
“U.S. youth here in Paris and back home are passionate about leading solutions to climate change. Even though we have the most at stake in this process, U.S. negotiators remain inaccessible to us,” said Jeremy Pivor, another #DearToddStern participant and attendee at the climate talks from Framingham, Massachusetts. “This campaign utilizes social media to amplify our collective voice so that our negotiators know that we demand an ambitious agreement.”
Youth are already leading the way to climate solutions on their campuses and in local communities through clean energy campaigns, fossil fuel divestment campaigns, and mass mobilizations such as the People’s Climate March in 2014.
Anyone on Twitter can join in the action by sharing a personal message of why climate action matters and using the hashtags #DearToddStern or #TellTodd. More information about the initiative is also available on Tumblr.