Video: Canadian youth activist opens People's Plenary in Rio

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Cameron Fenton: “Without a full turn around by world leaders and their representatives Rio is set to go down in history as one of the most colossal failures on on climate change and environmental protection.”

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On June 21, youth, activists and civilian delegates at Rio+20 came together to protest the official text.

Their message: “This text does not represent us, it does not reflect our interests and we reject it.” They then convened a People’s Plenary.

Here’s the moment when it all happened. The speaker is Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.


Cameron Fenton’s blog in Huffington Post Canada, June 21:

Twenty years ago, I was six. My priorities included lego, saturday morning cartoons and on occasion eating so many marshmallows I would puke.

Its safe to say that I had no idea what Rio+20 was, and I never dreamt that one day I would be sitting exhausted in a concrete conference center in Rio de Janeiro 20 years later seeing progress on environment and climate change grind to screeching halt.

Last week, Rio+20 felt like a family reunion that no one wanted to be at — as if someone had declared 20 years ago that the world would gather in Rio and we all begrundingly came down to suffer through it. Governments came with no plans to commit to anything, but felt obliged to show up. Civil society decided if our governments were coming, we needed to be here to challenge them. And so it began, everyone waiting around for the other shoe to drop, and when it finally did yesterday, it landed with a hollow, empty thud.

Rio failed, and it hadn’t even really started yet.

Early Monday morning, as world leaders arrived, delegates and negotiaters were putting the final touches on a text which meets none of the goals that nations and civil society from around the world came together in Rio for. The oceans were not protected, climate change was not addressed, food and water security was not enshrined, handouts to big polluters were continued, the Sustainable Developlment Goals were not addressed, and the list goes on. The Rio agenda has become a plan for pollution and a declaration of destruction, both for the planet and the people.

Without a full turn around by world leaders and their representatives Rio is set to go down in history as one of the most colossal failures on on climate change and environmental protection.

There are two days left of negotiations here in Rio, and I’ll be honest, the prospects of any serious progress is slim at best. The planet needs leaders to become champions for a just and sustainable future, unfortunately the only leaders that I’ve seen are locked out of the official plenary, or the conference center as a whole.

World “leaders”, who seem to lack the inspiration to build ambition, should take a walk down to Flamengo beach for a day. Home to the People’s Summit, where thousands of people are working together to build local and global solutions from the ground up — a far cry from the closed doors and closely guarded public relations lines of the official summit. Even closer they could simply sit in with any one of the dozens of clusters of youth littering the conference center working together to create projects, networks and visions for a better future.

The longer Rio drags on, the more I question who the real “leaders” are in Rio because those in the suits with the delegate badges seem to have given up.