The Elders


Climate change: who will lead?

“We urge the youth not to underestimate their power, influence and responsibility to address the biggest challenge of our time.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson urge youth movements to create political momentum in the run-up to a major climate conference in Paris in December 2015.

Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson

With the latest warnings delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past few weeks, no world leader will ever be able to claim that they were caught off-guard by climate change.

As former heads of state ourselves, we’ve experienced global crises from within the corridors of power. Some may take the world by surprise, but sometimes the warning signals are such that there is no excuse not to act. The IPCC report is such a signal.

The report of Working Group II of the IPCC is the most sobering assessment, to date, of the risks posed to humanity by climate change, describing a range of threats in a clear yet measured tone. Around the world, people’s crops and homes are in danger already. This will only get worse if nothing is done. Economic shocks and worsening poverty, exacerbated by a warming planet, will also increase the risk of armed conflict. It is the world’s poorest who are the most vulnerable. The report does not dictate exact scenarios but tells us, with unprecedented authority, what we must be ready for.

For this reason, it is a compelling call to action for governments. We hope it can trigger decisive action – notably on greenhouse gas emission reduction and financing for climate adaptation – on the road to December 2015, when world leaders will meet at a major conference in Paris to agree a new climate deal.

This week we are coming to Paris, as Elders, to help build momentum towards this deadline. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this process. Climate change ignores national borders. Multilateral negotiations remain the best approach for the world to reach a comprehensive solution. We are calling for a robust, fair, universal, and legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015.

The IPCC report does not just describe risks, it identifies opportunities. Solutions exist. The world possesses the tools and technology needed to reduce carbon emissions, build a more sustainable economy and end our reliance on fossil fuels. Many governments, businesses and community leaders are already showing the way in promoting renewable energy and developing affordable solutions to adapt to the present impacts of climate change.

As Elders, we believe the world should become carbon-neutral by 2050 in order to keep the warming of the planet below 2°C, without jeopardising the development opportunities of the poor. The expertise says this is feasible but requires visionary leadership and bold, concerted action. Ultimately, it is down to governments and their leaders to show the way and make sure the transition to carbon neutrality is fair.

But it would be too easy to wash one’s hands and blame politicians for their failure to address climate change. Any failure would be collective. Responding to climate change is everyone’s responsibility.

With Paris in December 2015 in our sights, we particularly want to stress the importance of youth movements to create the necessary anticipation and expectation that often acts as the first spark of momentum.

Furthermore, it is youth movements that determine the dedication and dynamism with which their own generations will confront these same threats when it is their turn to lead.

And with an increasingly young global population it is the youth who, by default, are the most vulnerable and directly concerned by the threats of climate change.

On all counts, the youth should mobilise now.

We will hold a discussion with some of these young leaders in Paris. We will also hear from the people on the frontline of climate change, from Chad to the Philippines, and learn about the solutions they are developing to cope with its most devastating effects.

We hope that by sharing some of our experience, and having a dialogue between generations, we can encourage current leaders to seize the opportunity of the process leading up to Paris in December 2015.

Young people will inherit our planet, our successes and our failures. As Elders, we urge them not to underestimate their power, influence and responsibility to address the biggest challenge of our time.

Have your say: discuss these issues during The Elders' debate on climate leadership and youth on Tuesday 22 April. Participate on Twitter using the hashtag #ScPoElders.

On the Web
Have a question for Jimmy Carter and Hina Jilani ahead of their #climatechange debate? Tweet it using #ScPoElders…
@TheElders To mitigate the effects of #climatechange, we need to #involveyouth in decision making process as partners & leaders. #ScPoElders
Question to @TheElders: do you believe in bldg a strong & single coalition w/ progressive #youth, #unions, #business to #cop21? #ScPoElders
Got a question for Jimmy Carter, Hina Jilani & Mary Robinson about #climatechange? Tweet using #ScPoElders…
@TheElders Remove the $500Bn subsidy to Carbon, put a tax on carbon, and raise the $66Bn subsidy for renewable energy. #scpoelders
Youth must actively participate in advocacy, national adaptation & mitigation actions, along with international negotiations #ScPoElders
'Never accept status-quo, stand up for #climateaction' Laurence Tubiana at #ScPoElders #climatechange #Cop21
And now begins the awesome "grandpa fireside chat" with Jimmy Carter ! #scpoelders
@TheElders #scpoelders Mr. Carter can we do anything to slow #climatechange if we can't get business/consumers to consume less?
I'd like to think that countries like the PH are advocating environmental policies, they're just shoved down a lot. #ScPoElders
@TheElders How can we push world leaders to agree an ambitious #climate deal in Paris in 2015? By showing that solar is economic #ScPoElders
How can we push world leaders to agree an ambitious #climate deal in Paris in 2015? Tell us what you think #ScPoElders
@TheElders: Leaders want $ + personal legacy. Show biz case & why history will remember them for big action vs #climatechange #ScPoElders
@theelders Making change in meteorological variables in the world over long periods of time. #ScPoElders
How can young people spark the political momentum needed to address #climatechange? Share your ideas #ScPoElders
@TheElders One people, one planet. That's reality. That's the solution. #Paris2015 #ScPoElders
Develpment goals must be very conscious of the connection to climate change - Hina Jilani… #ScPoElders #MDG #post2015
@ElisaPeter @TonyAbbottMHR @sciencespo Us Aussies will fight against the repeal of aus' carbon pricing scheme!!!! @TheElders #ScPoElders
@TheElders #scpoelders #sustainability and #business seem at odds where wages are based on #consumption. How do we morph to something better
Leaders should not underestimate the power and responsibility of young people to address the biggest challenge of our time. #ScPoElders
Jimmy Carter : "#climate change gives us a chance to stretch our minds and our hearts. It´s a great topic for exploration" #ScPoElders
Inspirational #ScPoElders event in Paris 2day. Message 2 youth: think BIG, the future needs u 2B changemakers & advocates 4 #climatejustice
I'm such a fan of Hina Jinali. She calls for solidarity, climate justice, equity and corporate social responsibility. #ScPoElders @TheElders
#ScPoElders Make space for environmental protection in the post-2015 agenda #SDGs @ClimatDev
#ScPoElders #climate Hina Jilani: "We should never stop being outraged, never turn away for injustice. That's the day we stop making change"
#ScPoElders : How can we expect China to change its lifestyle to a more ecofriendly one, when it only thrives to become like the US?
@HuffPostGreen #ScPoElders What about having one world body with absolute power to impose sanctions on violators and emitters? Clock ticking
@TheElders By giving Women all over the world education & access to contraception. Population control is the only way forward.#ScPoElders
"One thing we cannot afford as #humanrights defenders is pessimism." Hina Jilani #ScPoElders
How can young people spark the political momentum needed to address #climatechange? Share your ideas #ScPoElders @TheElders #youth
#ScPoElders Jimmy Carter: If we don't address global warming, we're going to see rapidly increasing conflict around the world.
@TheElders Is transpotation a big part of the problem when it comes to #climatechange ? #ScPoElders
#ScPoElders There is plenty of renewable energy on the planet. Why do dirty utility companies monopolise the production of dirty energy?
Jilani: we cannot afford cynicism in tackling #climate change #ScPoElders Especially youth whose lives will be defined by action or inaction
How do we develop collective & individual responsibility/perception chng for #climatechange as scientific facts are not enough? #ScPoElders
@TheElders EINFACH #Marx lesen, ARBEIT wiederentdecken… #climate Change is not possible with #Capitalism #ScPoElders
@TheElders those that produce the most emissions have to make the greatest effort to reduce them, no matter economic impact #ScPoElders
#ScPoElders If we have the technology, why we still burning fossil petrol for our vehicles? And without solar and electricity technologies… The vision for Essene is to create internet connected, carbon-free villages with shared resources #ScPoElders .
#ScPoElders Slavery once seen as only way to power civilisation. Now it's carbon. Find the abolition parallels - make it a moral imperative.
@theelders Carbon is black - attracting too much heat. Let's use Titanium Tetrachloride to turn smoke into white. #ScPoElders #ClimateChange
#ScPoElders Do you agree with @DalaiLama that nuclear power should be supported to help meet human development needs?…


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