Earlier this month around 1,500 young people descended on Sydney for Power Shift Australia, an event organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition to empower youth action on climate change. It featured talks by climate campaigners like Dr Tim Flannery, a video message by Al Gore, and culminated in a 500-strong flashmob dancing outside the Sydney Opera House.
Former US Vice-President Gore encouraged the young Australians to put pressure on their leaders in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. “Together we must encourage leaders throughout the globe to speak on our behalf at the Copenhagen negotiations this December,” he said. “Each of you here has a crucial role to play in order to get this done.”
The conference was modelled after a similar event that took place in the United States earlier this February. Organised by and for young people, it saw 12,000 teens and 20-somethings visit Washington to attend the biggest youth climate event ever. The delegates met members of the Obama cabinet in addition to civil rights activist Marshall Ganz.
The Power Shift ideals are now spreading further, and the next conference is to be held in the UK this October. Kate Shayler of the UK Youth Climate Coalition is coordinating the event, which she says is not just about getting the “usual suspects” of environmental campaigning involved. Instead, Shayler expects to have 1000 young people of diverse backgrounds in attendance. “We see climate change as a youth issue, not a minority middle-class issue, because it is going to affect all our futures,” she says.
Delegates will receive communications training adapted from the Obama campaign team and attend workshops designed to foster a sense of unity around climate change. The UKYCC hope that Power Shift UK can be the start of a larger climate movement, as called for by the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Milliband.
“We want to show young people in the UK that it’s happening all over the world, they’re not on their own, and young people around the world are being active and stepping up to fight climate change,” says Shayler.