Just on Thursday the China-US youth coalition had the rare opportunity of speaking with the US (official) delegation's Deputy Special Envoy, Jonathan Pershing.This is something of a culmination of all of our efforts as a newly formed coalition of youth from the US and China. Not only have we garnered countless media hits in the past four days, as a coalition, we've now spoken with one of the most powerful Americans at this conference. This has all been so exciting and encouraging for the next week of our time together.
In case you haven't read about it already, the CCN is working with the China Youth Delegation, Sierra Student Coalition and SustainUS to prove that China-US collaboration is not only possible, but productive. See more here.
So, thanks to the amazing Holly Chang of Golden Bridges, we were able to secure a 15-minute meeting with Mr. Pershing. We asked him for his take on China-US politics as well as for some definitive ways in which youth like us can improve diplomacy.
Our questions were, roughly:
1. (Lina Li) What is the reality of the relationship between China and US climate officials. Is the media being accurate? What challenges or opportunities have you experienced working with China in the negotiations?
2. (Holly Chang) Are there any specific challenges or opportunities you can speak of from your experiences, as we attempt our collaborations this week?
3. (me) What do you think youth can do better than governments? What specific ways can the government support our efforts moving forward?
He responded by telling us that China-US relations are indeed complicated, but that we as youth have the unique opportunity to collaborate and connect on a grassroots level. In our position in civil society, we have the freedom to approach issues bluntly and be direct about what we want from our governments (though this may speak more so to the relationship between the US and youth, rather than China and its youth).
Most importantly, he said, we have the ability to make personal connections with each other and develop a stronger voice as a coalition. He pointed out to us that he had agreed to meet with us because of our presence as a coalition, rather than several disjointed groups. This collaboration is what will get us the attention we need to tell our leaders and the world what we want to change, he said. Whether regarding specific policies or even to send the simple message that collaboration is our only option for a solution to climate change.
The way I see it, we have to take the future of international diplomacy into our own hands. Ours is the first generation to not only be able to meet it's global counterparts face-to-face, but also to have a singular reason for cooperation — the global climate crisis. While we may not have the same kind of political power that adults do, we have the drive and resources to mobilize and make change in a different way. We have a unique access to the grassroots and to our own communities. As youth, we have the power to do what our governments cannot do as governments.