Climate Change in My Eyes
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers
My name is Sonia Zinkin-Meyers, and I’m twelve years old. I’ll be the writer of this column, along with some of my schoolmates and friends. My column will be focusing on how those with less power-kids like myself as well as adults-can get involved in environmental advocacy and make a big impact. Along the way, I’ll be sharing my own story: the events and projects that I am participating in. For this very first column, I’ll share how I got to where I am right now, and hopefully show everyone how easy and rewarding it is to get involved with the climate change movement.
I first became conscious of the effects of climate change at sleepaway camp in 2016. That summer, there was a long, devastating drought all across New England. The river had slowed to a trickle, and the lake had lost over two feet of water. I brought it up one day, while walking with a counselor and some friends. My counselor said to us, “You should get used to this. This drought is caused by global warming, and it’s too late to do anything about it.” What she said stuck in my head for a long time. It made me really upset, and after a while I decided to do something about it. I was determined to prove her wrong.
At school, I was given the opportunity to learn more about climate change and ways to combat it. We started a project called Kids For a Cause, where everyone in the class got to pick a topic they cared about and write a series of essays on that. I chose a carbon tax, because it was something brand new to me that was directly related to the issue most important to me: climate change. One thing our teacher emphasized was including a call to action in our essays- a couple sentences on how the reader could get involved in that issue. I read about change.org in a classmate’s essay, and I decided to take my interest in carbon tax a step further. I went home and started a petition on change.org for a New York State carbon tax. You can sign it here. It took me half an hour to write it and send it out to everyone I knew. In the meantime, I had been scouring the internet for petitions to sign, organizations to get involved in. In my searches, I came across 350NYC.
When everyone I knew had signed the petition and sent it to friends, I had to think of other ways to get the word out. I emailed Lyna at 350NYC, asking if they would put my petition on their website or social media. Lyna generously agreed, and also invited me to one of the monthly meetings, where I spoke about my petition. After that, 350NYC was able to inform me and connect to many other opportunities. I appeared in a promotional video for the People’s Climate March and spoke at Next Generation Now, a rally for child activists. I, along with Ajani Stella, another activist, was also interviewed at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. There I expressed my interest in being an environmental journalist, and this column will allow me to do that while spreading my message and hopefully encourage everyone reading this to be an activist too.
Summary of COP23, Bonn, November 6-23.
by Margaret Perkins
The Conference of Parties, COP23, the annual meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, held in Bonn last month, was opened by the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, the host nation. He invoked the “talanoa spirit” – a term used in his country to describe inclusive and transparent dialogue and this platform was adopted formally by member states for future negotiations. The Talanoa spirit was in pointed contrast to the actions and arrogance of the US which has set in motion steps to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and whose official presence at COP23 was a dismal embarrassment.
The agenda for COP23 was to strengthen the fine points of the Paris agreement in several areas including the monitoring of each country’s pledges to reduce GHG emissions, referred to as nationally determined contributions, NDC. It was agreed that additional assessments on progress to reach emission pledges from developed countries will be reported on in 2018 and 2019, prior to the Agreement coming into effect in 2020. It was noted that some developed countries are not keeping pace with their pledges; 2017 will see the first increase in global emissions in 4 years after 3 years of no increase (Global Carbon Project). Additional areas that are still under debate are the financing mechanisms for vulnerable and developing countries and further policies on management of agriculture and oceans. President Obama in one of his final acts as President pledged $500 million to the Green Climate Fund. So far this appears to have withstood the destructive climate reversals of the new administration.
Several new and high profile climate campaigns received a lot of attention at COP23, most prominently the well funded mobilization to phase out coal in high use countries, including Germany, Poland, Japan and Australia. The ‘phase out’ campaign in the US and internationally (Beyond Coal) was given a huge boost by the Bloomberg Foundation, which pledged $60 million to that end in the US, and a further $50million for other coal intense countries. In support of the coal phase out movement, Canada joined with the U.K. to announce a coalition of six countries, and 20 sub-national entities, which will press for countries to achieve this through diplomacy.
Despite the miserable official participation by the US, a large contingent of American non-profit organizations, large businesses and local and state government officials participated in many of COP23 meetings under the banner “We Are Still In”. The coalition represents almost 50% of the US population and GDP. They had their own pavilion and their sessions were some of the most popular. There are negotiations in effect that this well organized coalition will be given a seat at the table in future climate negotiations as they apply to the states and cities they represent and until the US rejoins the Paris agreement.
Margaret Perkins is a 350NYC Steering Committee Member.