Youth hear from top U.N. officials

Two chairmen of major negotiating bodies at the U.N. briefed youth on Tuesday at a press conference on the second day of the climate talks in Copenhagen.
Michael Zammit-Cutajar and John Ashe took questions from youth for about 20 minutes in the Asger Jorn room at the convention center, which is usually reserved for press-only events.

Zammit-Cutajar, who wore a T-shirt saying “how old will you be in 2050?” to show solidarity with the youth at the talks, told the crowd that he is sick of misconceptions about the conference.

“How many times do I have to read in a Web site or an article from very respected sectors of the media that the purpose of this conference is to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012?” he asked.

Zammit-Cutajar chairs the the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, the track of negotiations that requires countries to produce a legally binding treaty before the first commitments of Kyoto expire. He reminded the audience that it’s the first phase of the Kyoto which is ending and not the entire agreement. During the first phase of Kyoto, which ends in 2012, developed countries that ratified the treaty must have fulfilled their obligations of reducing of greenhouse gases emissions.

Because the U.S. never ratified Kyoto, it does not have to keep those obligations. Zammit-Cutajar said this creates a problem for other developed countries who might, like the U.S., want a new agreement that replaces Kyoto. But Zammit-Cutajar insisted that Kyoto would not be dismantled in Copenhagen.

“It is not the purpose of this conference to kill the Kyoto Protocol,” he said.

John Ashe stressed the importance of youth in Copenhagen. “This is all about the future, you are the future, we are trying to secure it so you are an integral part of it,” Ashe said.“You have a role to play and you should be very active in this.”

The briefing was one of several high-level events aimed at youth who are attending the conference. An upcoming one will feature the U.N.’s top climate official, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer.

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