Learnin’ from Durban: Global Action on a Local Scale

YEA! MN student Georgetta writes a letter to Amy Klobuchar asking her to protect the Clean Air Act
Attendees write letters to Amy Klobuchar, urging her to protect the Clean Air Act and EPA.

Attendees write letters to Amy Klobuchar, urging her to protect the Clean Air Act and EPA
YEA! MN student Georgetta writes a letter to Amy Klobuchar asking her to protect the Clean Air Act.

Minnesotans gathered at Edina Library last Saturday for YEA! MN’s Learnin’ from Durban: Global Action on a Local Scale event. Sheltered from the cold and snow, attendees checked-in on the climate negotiations happening halfway around the globe in the 90 degree heat of Durban, South Africa. Will Steger Foundation Delegates Paul Thompson and John Howard offered their firsthand account of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) via a skype call. We also heard from Steve Suppan from Minnesota’s Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and delegates from countries who will face serious impacts as the climate changes.

With arctic sea ice melting at its fastest pace in almost 40 years, now is a more crucial time than ever to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Steve Suppan stressed the importance for federal and international policy to address climate change. He noted the need for both mitigation and adaptation financing, highlighting the transition to renewable energy as one of the most immediate policies that should be focused on.

With an issue as urgent as climate change, students expressed frustration that the U.S. isn’t taking a more active role in the negotiations. After all, as youth, these negotiations dictate the world that we will live in twenty years from now. The key to the U.S. signing a binding climate agreement resides with Congress, and our current political climate doesn’t offer much hope for Congress signing onto such an agreement.

Luckily, this isn’t stopping youth from taking matters into their own hands. Following the skype call, we heard from a number of high school environmental leaders about projects they are doing at their schools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. From bike to school days to getting composting in their cafeterias, youth are making progress toward a sustainable future across the metro.

The event concluded with a letter writing activity. The Clean Air Act offers the opportunity for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue rules for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major sources. But, for the past year, pollution limits created by the EPA have been under attack. Senator Klobuchar is a key vote in making sure that new limits are not delayed or weakened by Congress. To express our support for clean air safeguards, we wrote letters to Senator Klobuchar urging her to vote against any legislation that attacks the Clean Air Act or EPA.

Throughout the day it was apparent, that now is a great time for youth to educate themselves and lead the way on creating international and federal policy that addresses climate change.

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