[Youth Delegate Blog] A New Human Right: Intergenerational Equity

Written by Sam Albert, BCCIC Youth Delegate to UNFCCC SB-50

Intergenerational equity was a new concept to me going into the SB-50 United Nations Climate Change Conference last week. I have always been a passionate advocate for human rights, particularly the right to a healthy environment with the Blue Dot Movement back home in Vancouver. However, it was not until meeting with other youth delegates at the conference this week or further dissecting human rights role in climate change during various workshops and negotiations, that I wondered: is intergenerational equity a human right? 

By definition,  the basis of intergenerational equity is that every generation holds our planet in common with both past, present and future generations. These principles specifically apply to the conservation of both land and environment for all future generations to enjoy. 

I started the week by attending a human rights breakfast with the Center for International Environmental Law Senior Attorney, Sébastien Duyck. The groups discussion on the right to a healthy environment in various national laws triggered an impromptu investigation into international development in this “new” idea of intergenerational equity. Sébastien had explained to us that the best way to achieve environmental or intergenerational rights was to look into already existing laws and policies which could be correlated with these new yet vital human rights. From this discussion, I spent the rest of the week learning more about various marginalized groups represented at the SB conference and who were asking for a stronger voice in the climate change discussion. 

I followed both indigenous and gender equality forums and discussions during the rest of the week and found that I gained an overwhelming amount of insight into the complex environment surrounding international human rights. My consensus from these two subjects was that both of these marginalized groups had some of the best solutions in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change, yet already were the ones being the most heavily affected by the issue. This observation made me wonder if youth were maybe entwined in this same dilemma as well.

As a 17 year old, I understand all too well the devastating consequences climate change will have on my future. Because of this stark realization, I have become an organizer and facilitator for the global youth school strike for climate movement in Vancouver. I help organize the almost monthly protests as well as assure that everything runs smoothly when thousands of passionate students are marching through the streets of Vancouver. I find this work both empowering and at times depressing since once again, it is the youth who are prepared to put the most time and energy towards solutions to the climate crisis, yet will also bare the most dire consequences shall not enough action be taken. This frustration which I had felt for so long was literally the lack of intergenerational equity in both our country and planet. 

Once all these pieces fell together, I realized intergenerational equity was an issue worth advocating for not only at home but during my time here at the conference. Because of this, I helped plan an action being taken on Friday to address the rights of future generations and the importance of young people having a legitimate voice at the table when debating climate action. The “Strike for Intergenerational Justice” was a huge success and created a buzz around the conference over the importance of youth advocacy and opinion in climate related issues. The protest was attended by over 50 of the youth delegates from the conference as well as many media representatives and other climate activists in the Bonn community. 

Although I am sure there is still much to learn about intergenerational justice and the human rights implications of climate change, going into week two of the conference there is already multiple forums scheduled to discuss generational roles in the climate crisis. Whether these events are from the protest on Friday or not, I am ready for what week two will bring and I cannot wait to see real progress be made for intergenerational equity here at the United Nations and beyond.   

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