What a difference a year makes. One year ago almost to this day I was in a very different place to where I am now – both literally and figuratively. I had spent the Christmas and New Year break in the South of Italy, after hitching a ride and catching some trains from Copenhagen, and was gradually snaking my way back to London, via Rome and Paris. I had spent the days and weeks since the Copenhagen conference trying to work out what on earth had gone wrong and why it was that in the second week of the conference myself and thousands of other youth delegates and advocates from across the globe had been locked out of the negotiating rooms.
I was almost overwhelmed by a feeling of despondency and disappointment – not only in the process itself, but in my own ability to achieve what I had set my mind to. I kept asking myself if there was more I could have done to ensure that the youth delegation had access to their country negotiating team and if I could have worked harder to try and bring the youth voice to the Government decision-making table. It was with a heavy heart that I returned to London, unsure of what I could do to bring the youth perspective to the policy teams who were negotiating my future; unsure of how I could work with a Government that was meant to represent the interests of those people who would be alive in the year 2050 and beyond.
But like I said, what a difference a year makes.
This week my heart is no longer heavy and my mind is not troubled in the ways it was. For the past ten months I have been involved in establishing the DECC Youth Advisory Panel, which provides a direct channel of communication between the youth constituency and Government policy-makers. The Panel was established to respond to the lack of access to decision-makers that negatively impacted on the hopes and aspirations of the youth groups in Copenhagen: after all, we all too often reminded them ‘you shouldn’t make a decision about us, without us.’
In the interest of incorporating the idea of ‘intergenerational equity’ (fairness between generations) in decision-making the Youth Advisory Panel was convened to work with DECC to to safeguard the future of young generations, and those generations yet to come. The focus for the first programme of activities of the panel was on energy and the DECC 2050 Pathway Calculator . Through going on site visits around the country to see how energy is produced in power stations and transported via the National Grid, as well as visiting projects that are working to reduce excessive energy usage, the Panel members were able to have in depth discussions about the issue of energy and why it affects young people.
As part of the journeythe members of the panel deepened their understanding about how energy issues are already impacting on the lives of young people and how decisions made today will directly impact on their future. They shared these experiences with their organisations and networks and asked for feedback on what other young people thought about the issues. There were also useful opportunities to meet with DECC policy officials and the minister Charles Hendry, to further our discussions on the topics. All of this work then culminated in a Report, entitled ‘Energy: how fair is it anyway’ , which was launched on the 5th December 2010 to coincide with the UNFCCC Young and Future Generations Day .
This week I have been been working with the Panel on planning the year ahead and establishing the new programme of activities. During that meeting, as I watched the discussions that were taking place, and the way in which the Panel was self-organising and self-motivated, I found myself feeling ecstatic. At that moment I had the wonderful sense that if I slipped out of the door, the magnificent hard work would continue; the debates would further shape the thinking and products of the Panel; the site visits would be organised and the next report would soon be written…
Twelve months ago I was afraid that the voice of young people would not be heard or acknowledged by decision-makers, and that the interests of the youth would be ignored. I had anxieties about thinking that other young people would feel disempowered and disappointed at the lack of input that they had into the decisions that affect their futures.
This week I find myself struggling to remember what that feeling actually felt like because now we have established a formal channel of communication between the younger generations and those in positions of authority and power; we have worked hard to establish mutual feelings of respect and have fostered an ethos of collaboration and inclusion; and I am confident that the work of the Panel will continue to put the principle of intergenerational equity at the heart of decision-making.