In the run-up to next month’s summit in New York, the UN are deciding on a symbolic someone they can wheel in to harangue world leaders about climate change policy. Rather unsubtly, some inner-circle operators in the Secretary-General’s office are looking for a female person under 30, in the hope that this chosen one will be a sort of inspirational climate-change version of Malala Yousafzai. However, as the BBC’s Roger Harrabin puts it: “Listening to impassioned youth is one thing: changing current economic policies to combat a risk of uncertain magnitude is another.” And I think there’s another problem, as these quotes demonstrate:
Severn Cullis-Suzuki (1992): “We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways”.
Christina Ora (2009): “Stop negotiating away our future.”
Anjali Appadurai (2011): “You’ve been negotiating all my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises, but you’ve heard this all before.”
Abigail Borah (2011): “You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations. Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.”
Genesis Carmona (2014): “Men and women have become consumerist monsters that consume all the resources given by the Earth”.
Malala Yousafzai (2013): “Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed.”
See the difference? Young, female climate activists, if you had wanted to persuade people, over the years, to sacrifice their economies to combat some nebulous “risk of uncertain magnitude”, it would have helped if you’d come across as inspirational heroines and not so much as demanding brats. Of course, need it be said, it would also help if your adversary was a real and present danger, like the Taliban, and not an entity that has declared a unilateral ceasefire and gone into hiding for over a decade.