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Young Chinese play greater role in tackling climate change

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 24, 2009

While negotiators and experts debated at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Li Chuheng was preparing to play a video on climate change to her neighbors.

The 17-year-old was just back from the Children's Climate Forum, held from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 in Copenhagen. She worked with 160 delegates from 44 countries and regions on proposals to tackle climate change from children's perspectives.

"I brought back a lot of materials, and I hope to share them with other people in my school and community as soon as possible," she says.

Li, a student at Beijing No. 8 Middle School, has been working with her schoolmates on a study of China's wind power, as well as raising public awareness of climate change since February.

Xu Bing of Peking University, Li Yi of Tsinghua University and Xiao Jianke of Beijing Foreign Studies University are preparing for a speech to university students next week.

Starting with this year's early snow in Beijing, they will talk about the causes and consequences of climate change, the actions China and international community have made to tackle it, and energy conservation and emissions reduction measures in daily life.

Selected with four other university students by the China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN) as "climate ambassadors" in July, they were required to make three speeches to the public on climate change before the end of the UN Climate Change Conference to raise public awareness.

Zhou Denglin, project manager of CYCAN, says the organization, founded in 2007 by seven university environmental protection organizations, has cooperated with more than 200 universities in its activities. About 100,000 college students have joined in tackling climate change problems.

CYCAN selected 40 students to go to Copenhagen to deliver pamphlets, make speeches and organize activities to tell the world what Chinese youth have done on climate change, Zhou says..

"The international community knew little about the work young Chinese have done as we had few opportunities to participate such activities in the past. We have to let them know," he says.

Chen Ying, deputy director with the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says climate change is a long-term global issue and young people will be most affected.

Wang Zinan, who also attended the Children's Climate Forum, started studying Beijing park lawn degeneration when he found the grass in the Yuan Dynasty Dadu City Wall Park, near his house, was withering.

"Our school (Beijing No. 22 Middle School) will reconstruct the campus in the next two years and I hope to help plan the replanting of the campus lawn," Wang says.

Chen Ying and her team conducted a survey of 1,500 students at seven universities in China last year. It found they were highly concerned and willing to make efforts on energy reservation and emissions cuts.

Only 6.47 percent of respondents said they never took environmental protection measures, such as water and electricity conservation and cutting the use of plastic bags; 35.56 percent said they were willing to encourage the others to protect the environment, according to the survey.

Chen says young people feel less pressure in daily life and are more open to new concepts, so their concern about climate change is higher than average and their efforts will definitely reap rewards in the future.

On the other hand, young Chinese have to learn more to understand the complexity of the issue, says Chen.

"For example, how should developed and developing countries share responsibility and obligations in tackling climate change? I hope they can develop a more comprehensive understanding," she says.

And China should strengthen education on the issue.

Sixteen-year-old Wang Zinan says foreign high school students spend more time in working with schools and communities while Chinese students do less because of the heavy burden of homework and exams; and when they try to do the work, some adults refuse to take it seriously.

"If we can do it well under this pressure, as long as we stick to environmental protection, we will also do a good job in tackling this issue when we grow up and face other kinds of pressure," he says.

Zhou Denglin says they hope, through CYCAN's work, not only that young people take action now, but that some of them continue environmental protection work in the future.

"We hope more young people who care about climate change become decision-makers in government, management of enterprises or experts in universities, which is a practical way to better tackle the issue," he says.

Li Chuheng finds many people have an attitude of "It's none of my business" towards climate change issues.

"They don't want to change their way of life because of an uncertain thing in the future," she says.

She plans to study psychology and economics in university. "I can take more acceptable measures to tell the public about climate change by understanding their thinking through studying psychology," she says.

Economics could help her apply research on wind power to more widely practical uses, she says.

Li feels action is more urgently needed.

"Climate change waits for no one. We have to act now."

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