Doha has been extra generous at COP 18: It has flown in and is paying around 600 students from developing country universities to work in the gigantic convention center during the talks. Furthermore, it paid for 100 Arab climate activists to attend a demonstration. They’re staying in a five-star hotel.
These young activists bring energy and urgency; they want to change the world quickly. But international diplomacy needs patience. Some of them have known COP to happen since they were born, and they feel there isn’t enough to show for.
“Before last week, Arab leaders did not know that their youth cared about climate change. Now we have had meetings with the Arab league and ministers. I believe that we are getting our message across,” said Tariq al-Olaimy, a Bahraini and one of the founders of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM).
The increasing presence and impact of young people in the climate talks is not just because climate change is “inter-generational”, says Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim, a law student at the University of Hull and one of seven UK youth climate coalition members in Doha. “Climate change does not discriminate in terms of age. We may be young but we, too, will be 30, 40 and 50. We bring a different voice”.
“Having COP18 here is an opportunity to show that the Arab World is about more than fossil Fuels” says Moussa Sall from Mauritania.
Interestingly enough this was also Qatar’s first ever demonstration and one that gets international media coverage. These young people have gotten Doha’s assistance to be there, but they are determined and there is nothing “set up” about them.
The founding AYCM is expected to take Arab youth by storm; feedback from AYCM Algeria amongst others is very strong, social media will be the tool of choice once again. Arab leaders may be surprise their youth is so keen to mitigate climate change, but it a strong signal to the world.
(Photo from AYCM’s facebook page)