Young activists hailed for pushing climate to the top of global agenda

Young activists hailed for pushing climate to the top of global agenda

The young activists who have staged student strikes and mass demonstrations in Belgium and elsewhere have enabled climate change to climb to the top of the agenda in many countries, says climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele.

“When a young person calls a political decision-maker to account on his or her future, it’s much harder to take their views and lock them away in a drawer,” the former vice president of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, said at the UN climate conference, COP25, which ended on Friday in Madrid.

“I therefore thank the young people who made it possible to put the issue back at the top of the agenda, and place political decision-makers and economic actors before their responsibilities,” added the University of Leuven professor. “I think that has contributed to moving things in the right direction.”

Climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele

There has been no shortage of annual UN climate conferences and many external observers have the impression that nothing, or almost nothing, has been moving. Van Ypersele noted that this was still a “preparatory phase before the Paris Agreement really takes effect”, so “it’s normal for us to be still discussing rules and final details before starting the implementation phase.”

“The timeline for stepping up the ambition level is next year,” he stressed, “but climate does not see these negotiating difficulties. It expects emissions to go down, whereas they are forever increasing and that is evidently a concern.”

Van Ypersele said he was still interested in returning to the IPCC, where he made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2015.

His candidature for the IPCC presidency “still has to be made official by the Belgian Government,” he said, “but I am ready to be a candidate. The election is supposed to be held in about two years. I don’t know who the other candidates will be, but I think I could do useful work right now in the IPCC management team.”

The Brussels Times

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