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Ear to the Ground

An Open Letter to America’s Climate Envoy

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Posted on Dec 2, 2012
Center for American Progress (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Todd Stern is the U.S. special envoy for climate change.

For activists, negotiators and journalists interested in a prosperous human future, the U.N. climate negotiations held each year are grueling, emotionally draining events. In a letter to Todd Stern, Obama’s representative at talks going on now in Doha, Qatar, Nikki Hodgson of the Adopt a Negotiator Project captures the mood well.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Nikki Hodgson at Adopt a Negotiator:

Sleep-deprived, running on caffeine, adrenaline, and hope. I may be young, I may be inexperienced, I may be naive and idealistic, but I’m here. Sitting around with other youth delegates, we make jaded jokes about the negotiation process. Our jokes and political analysis drip with cynicism, but it’s a facade because we’re still here. Still hoping against all odds that we will break through this, that equity will be addressed, that climate finance won’t stagger off a fiscal cliff, that our countries will take proactive and aggressive mitigation measures, that two degrees will be more than just a “guide post,” that the U.S. will not abandon the UNFCCC process for the Major Economies Forum.

I want to know what you tell President Obama and how he responds. Because we are asking you not just to admit that you agree with our sentiment on the need for climate change action. We are asking you to fight for us, with us. The sluggish response of the past few years leaves us with the feeling that you are telling us we need to fight for ourselves and I want to ask Obama if that is the answer he would give to his own daughters, that not only does the economy take precedence over future generations, but that the two are somehow mutually exclusive. We are frustrated because we want to believe that you are on our side, that you want what we want, but even as you are telling us you agree with what we want, you lament the fact that your hands are tied. We are doing what we can to loosen those knots.

With the help of numerous grassroots organizations, the youth climate movement in the U.S. has rallied alongside hundreds and thousands of youth from around the world to demand for action, we have organized one of the largest environmental protests that the White House has seen in decades, we are petitioning our universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and we are here, following you, tracking your progress and letting you know by our presence that we are watching because the prospect of inaction has proven too much for the political apathy that often plagues younger generations.

Again and again, youth delegates and observers have asked you what you think we should do to help the process. All of them wondering what you would do if you were in our place. Are you curious what we would do in yours? Mr. Stern, you said earlier this year that politics is the art of the possible, but Pearl S. Buck told us that, “the young do not know enough to be prudent, and so they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” We have waited patiently for most of our lives, but if President Obama refuses to use his second term to make climate action his legacy, we will make it ours.

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