Youth at the COP 22: Closing the “Passivity Gap”

By Oona Moorhead, one of the observers with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of the Parties (COP) 22, in Marrakech, Morocco. Oona is a high school student from Texas.
Oona Moohead, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at COP 22 in Marrakech

Oona Moohead, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at COP 22 in Marrakech
One out of every six people is between the ages of 15 and 24, and the youth demographic is only predicted to keep growing.

Nicholas Kristof told a room of 1,500 teenagers at last summer’s Global Youth Human Rights Summit that there is an “apathy and passivity gap” in our generation. He explained that our generation lacked drive and interest in justice issues, and those of us in his audience were meant to be agents of change. COP22 is the Action COP, and the generation who will soon have to take responsibility for climate change solutions needs to be ready for it.

I’m writing this from Marrakech, Morocco. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had more meaningful experiences that took me further from home: a couple hours away in Houston I was trained by Former Vice President Al Gore in his Climate Reality Project; a couple thousand miles away I listened Nick Kristof speak in The Hague, Netherlands at the Global Youth Leadership Summit. But here I am now, at the UN negotiations for climate change policy—I’m a little bit out of my element.


I am the youngest person I’ve seen here (except one baby), including the intergenerational discussion I attended today, hosted by several youth organizations and UN representatives. There I saw many European twenty-somethings discuss the importance of increasing youth involvement in policymaking to disrupt low ambition.

The problem I see in this, though, is all the youth I know are the ones with low ambition in solving any big picture problems. The youth I know are worried about getting into their top choice colleges and having enough gas in the tank to make it home so they don’t have to buy it themselves.

Getting these kids involved is what makes the difference. The youth I know need to know that they do have an impact on the world, they need to have encouragement and the resources to spread their ideas, and they need to understand that they will have to shoulder the weight of our world pretty soon. Given the right environment and materials, this generation will prove to be decreasingly apathetic, and those that care will find that they’re truly powerful agents of change.



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