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December 19, 2015 | We’re Rising and Paris Was Just the Beginning

Something really exciting happened at COP21, and it wasn’t the actual climate deal. Don’t get me wrong, the Paris Agreement is historic and a good first step in the right direction, but something happened in Paris that is much more significant and carries a lot more hope for the future of the planet.

On the last day of the COP negotiations, December 11, hundreds of youth gathered in front of the entrance to the Blue Zone, forming a human chain by holding hands, chanting, and singing in unison. We demanded a more drastic change than was decided in the Paris Agreement, and talked about the liberation of a fossil fuel-free future. In an environment where most youth did not have the credentials to get into the actual conference, this protest was a safe space to express our thoughts and reflect on the critical need for a better world.

The next day, tens of thousands gathered in Paris to draw “red lines” against the fossil fuel industry and demand climate justice. And even with so many people involved on that day, the Climate Action Day on November 29 around took the cake, with 600,000 people in 175 countries taking to the streets.

I’m seeing a pattern here.

I have been passionate about environmental issues for a long time, and it’s easy to feel alone in this realm as there is still a large portion of the world population that doesn’t feel that this is an important, interesting, or critical issue. This was my first time at a COP, and while I felt overwhelmed with all the events that were going on and people that were here, I did not feel alone. Tens of thousands of people were in Paris for COP21 because they wanted to create something impactful, long lasting, and relevant to the needs of our planet. They wanted to be there to express their wishes for a better world and the urgency with which we must divert ourselves from an extremely dangerous trajectory. Everyone was here.

The most exciting thing at COP21 was not the negotiations and meticulous arguments over phrasing behind closed doors. It was the mobilization, the gathering of thousands of passionate voices together demanding a new era of climate justice. People from all over the world, of different backgrounds and races and religions and sexual orientations all gathered together because this is an issue that affects everyone. It is not affecting everyone equally, as we see with environmental justice issues back home and flooding islands in the Pacific alike, but it is affecting everyone in some way.

So no, the Paris Agreement will not solve climate change. But we, the people, will; I’m absolutely confident about it. There are so many people who care so much about this issue and are dedicating their lives to environmental protection. Standing in front of the Blue Zone on Friday with hundreds of other young people from all over the world was so exhilirating because I knew that every single person would go back home and start organizing. The Paris Agreement is a good first step, but it is just that: a first step. This is only the beginning, and now we’re seeing a new generation of climate warriors, rising.

 

Emma Hutchinson is one of Conergy's Future Solar Leaders. Emma is a junior at Stanford University, where she is studying environmental science and economics.