Asian youths call for ambitious climate pact

by Ko Hirano

Kyodo News

BEIJING (Kyodo) Alarmed by the slow progress in global negotiations on a new carbon-capping pact, young people in Asia are increasingly calling on China, Japan and other major greenhouse gas emitters to step up to the plate, emphasizing that transformation to a low-carbon economy would generate new jobs and other opportunities.

About 270 university students and young professionals from 11 countries met this month in Beijing to give “wakeup calls” to policymakers involved in U.N. talks leading toward a key climate meeting in December in Copenhagen, where the world will try to strike a deal on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

“As the No. 1 carbon dioxide emitter in the world, China should be responsible. We should do more” to curb emissions, Chinese delegate Yupu Zhao said after the International Youth Summit on Energy and Climate Change at Tsinghua University on July 18 and 19. “And we hope to cooperate with big players like the European Union, Japan and America to do more.”

Zhao, 22, an environmental science major at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, said the young people agreed climate change is a global challenge, but it is also an opportunity to make the global society sustainable.

“In the future, there will be job opportunities for a low-carbon economy that young people can take in a very positive way, especially in China,” he said.

“We just feel that young people have to do something about it.”

Youth summit delegates gave “low grades” to Japan’s climate policy, especially its emissions reduction target of 8 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, according to Japanese delegate Akira Hiraishi, a second-year student at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Public Policy.

Hiraishi, 23, called on the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party of Japan to unveil “ambitious” climate policies in their platforms for the Aug. 30 poll.

If the world fails to halt climate change, “we are the generation who will suffer the consequences,” Zhao said. “So we realize that it’s our problem, and we hope policymakers will hear our voices.”