SARANAC LAKE NATIVE ATTENDED PARIS AGREEMENT SIGNING AT UNITED NATIONS
Last December, 195 countries came together in Paris and reached an unprecedented agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This past Friday, April 22 – Earth Day, more than 170 countries joined in a historic event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to sign the landmark Paris climate agreement.
University of Vermont sophomore and Adirondack Youth Climate leader and Saranac Lake High School alumna, Gina Fiorile along with The Wild Center’s Director of Programs, Jen Kretser, were at the United Nations for this historic Earth Day event. Gina had the honor of opening the US Pavilion as a featured speaker on youth engagement and climate change at COP21 in Paris last December. “I am grateful that the United Nations has recognized that young people are key stakeholders in combatting climate change and that we need to be part of the conversation. COP 21 was just the beginning and in order to solve this, we need to engage everyone,” said Fiorile of the days' events.
Leader after world leader remarked on the critical importance of the putting the agreement into action. Speakers included Secretary of State John Kerry, the President of France Francois Hollande, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and many more. UN ambassador of peace, actor Leonardo DeCaprio concluded the opening ceremony with “Now is the time for bold unprecedented action. Which side of history will you be on?”
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Today is a remarkable, record-breaking day in the history of international cooperation on climate change and a sustainable future for billions of people alive today and those to come.”
Figueres added, “The urgency now is to implement the Paris Agreement’s visionary pathways at a speed and scale that can deliver the next crucial steps; namely a swift peaking of global emissions, a climate neutral world in the second half of the century and the building of resilient countries and communities for every man, woman and child.”
The Paris Agreement marked a watershed moment in taking action on climate change. After years of negotiation, countries agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.
Youth also spoke at the signing ceremony. Gertrude Clement a 16 year girl from Tanzania remarked “Youth are leading our communities in taking action. We expect more than words on paper and promises – we expect action – action on a big scale. And we expect action today – not tomorrow – the future is ours and the future is bright.” Secretary of State John Kerry brought his granddaughter to the podium to sign the historic document, a symbol of safeguarding future generations from the impact of climate change.
Over the past year The Wild Center has been working to spread the Youth Climate Summit model across the country, inspiring events in Detroit, Vermont, Houston and even Finland. The Center has also become involved with #Youth4Climate, a campaign organized by a coalition of partners with a goal to inspire young people around the world to take action on climate change. By providing a platform for young people to be heard and by carving out space for them in places where they’ve historically been marginalized, #Youth4Climate is empowering young people to have influence in the global climate conversation.
The #Youth4Climate social media campaign is an effort led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), the CLEAN Network, The Wild Center, the World Bank Group’s global partnership program Connect4Climate, Climate Generation, Earth Day Network, Climate Interactive, Climate Sign, Alliance for Climate Education, and others. It is an open discussion for all to join the youth call for climate action.
As for the signing on Friday, the hard work is really just beginning. We need to expand the idea of what is possible.