CORNELL SOPHOMORE ATTENDS HISTORIC UNITED NATIONS EVENT
TUPPER LAKE, NY – The Paris Climate Agreement, adopted by world leaders last December at the Climate Conference in Paris (COP21), officially entered into force on Friday, November 4th. To commemorate this historic day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited civil society representatives to a 45 minute meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York City. This meeting provided fifty representatives of civil society groups the opportunity to share with the Secretary-General how their organizations will contribute to the objectives of the Paris Agreement, as well as their visions and concerns.
Caroline Dodd, a Saranac Lake, NY native and Cornell University sophomore, attended this historic meeting. Dodd had been selected as a Civil Society representative to attend the 2014 United Nations Climate Conference through a global selection process. Last week she was called by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service to once again represent youth climate leaders at this historic event. Dodd represented the civil society organizations Plan International and The Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Program.
Eleven civil society representatives spoke during the meeting. Individuals from the Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, MIT and others presented their thoughts on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The meeting included several video statements, including one from Marshall Islands resident Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, whose opening poem at the 2014 UN Climate Summit prompted a standing ovation from world leaders.
“There were statements of support for the Paris Agreement, but each included emphasis on the fact that countries and civil society representatives are responsible for upholding the agreement, as it is not legally binding and there is no mechanism for enforcement,” Dodd recalled.
Following the input from civil society members, the Secretary-General set his script aside to make his closing comments. “I found out later that this is quite unusual,” Dodd said. “The Secretary-General referred to civil society as the ‘Kings and Queens without crowns’ that have made the Paris Agreement possible. Shaking the Secretary General’s hand and then sitting a few feet from him for the meeting to commemorate this historic day is something I will never forget. I left the meeting feeling empowered and hopeful.”
The Paris agreement is a climate change accord adopted by nearly 200 countries in December 2015 and has been ratified by nearly half of these nations. The agreement commits world leaders to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, an agreed upon threshold beyond which climate disaster is virtually guaranteed. The carbon emissions targets are not legally-binding, but the framework of the accord is binding and includes a mechanism for periodically increasing the targets. The agreement also has a long-term goal for net zero emissions, which would require phasing out fossil fuels.
The Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Program engages youth in climate change education and catalyzes action in schools and communities through youth-driven projects and leadership. The program has created a White House Champion of Change and sent student leaders to the United Nations and COP 21 in Paris. The Program also has helped to seed Youth Summits around the world, bringing its unique organization and focus on youth leadership to Finland, Seattle, Vermont and Detroit. Dodd is an alumna of the program and a former intern at The Wild Center working on the Youth Climate Program. She plans to create a Western New York Climate Summit in the near future.
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