Yukoners return from climate change conference

The Yukon delegation that just returned home from a major conference on climate change say they remain optimistic despite some of the news.

The Yukon delegation that just returned home from a major conference on climate change say they remain optimistic despite some of the news.

The annual United Nations conference, known as the 19th Conference of the Parties or COP 19, wrapped up last week in Poland. The talks only yielded modest results, with parties pledging to adopt a new global climate agreement in 2015.

But it’s easy to focus on the negative and miss reasons for optimism, said Ed Van Randen, Environment Yukon’s assistant deputy minister for climate change, who spoke to reporters on Friday from Warsaw.

Reasons for worry include “Australia changing its mind on whether it would do a carbon tax and preferring, like Canada, to focus on a sector-specific approach,” as well as “Japan having to revise its forecast on how much greenhouse gas admissions it could commit to now that it was backing away from nuclear on the heels of the Fukushima disaster.”

Yet Van Randen said his optimism comes in part from speeches by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s executive secretary, Christiana Figueres.

“She pointed out that 30 countries in the world already have climate change legislation and another 100 countries have renewable energy resolutions,” he said.

“She pointed out that cities are becoming much more active in the climate change conversations. Over 300 cities in the world are already implementing climate smart policies and measures. This is important because cities hold 50 per cent of the world’s population right now.”

As for information focused on the North, Van Randen said he was most interested in research being done surrounding ice and the Arctic Ocean.

“It’s melting incredibly rapidly. When you look at the imagery over the last 20 years, it’s startling how much the ice has retreated and thinned over the last 20 years,” he said.

Scott Bradley represented the Yukon as a youth climate change ambassador. The 23-year-old from Dawson City told reporters on Friday he spent his time in Poland connecting with other youth from around the world, shadowing other delegates and “just soaking up as much as I can.”

Now that he has returned home, Bradley hopes to give presentations in Dawson and Whitehorse to share his experiences.

He said he’s learned the importance of being involved.

“We can’t wait for our elders to pave the path for us. We have to go out and act upon it instead of just watching from the sidelines.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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