To jump start her freshman year at Seton Hall, Diplomacy student Renata Alvarenga attended the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. The COP21 conference was the platform for world representatives to negotiate the Paris Agreement, which aims to create legally binding targets for limiting global climate change. Alvarenga was also able to attend the three-day Conference of Youth (COY11) which brought 4,000 youth representatives together to learn and dialogue on issues of sustainability.
Alvarenga and other COY11 representatives helped create a manifesto which commits signatories to embrace values such as open-mindedness, cooperation, commitment, and respect when working toward sustainability goals in their communities and beyond. The manifesto emphasized the links between important issues such as education and human rights and climate change.
Alvarenga attended COP21 as part of a youth delegation representing Engajamundo, an organization operating in her home country of Brazil that focuses largely on issues of environment, gender, and development. The delegation of 20 was honored to receive passes that allowed them to witness negotiations firsthand, in addition to participating in the many side events that were held at the conference. Alvarenga's delegation focused primarily on how climate relates to human rights and created 10 lobby points which they were able to share with Brazilian leaders attending the conference. The incorporation of indigenous peoples' rights was especially important to her delegation because of Brazil's large indigenous population.
Alvarenga said that youth provided an important element to COP21 not only by lobbying attendees but through their presence. As the actions of current leaders will affect youth and future generations the most, the attendance of youth served as a reminder of the importance and relevance of the issues at hand.
"The youth were there to shake everyone up and show how important climate really is," Alavrenga said. One way the youth sought to drive home the importance of climate was by organizing a daily "die-in" which occurred in view of attendees entering the COP21 conference. Every day at 3:00 p.m., die-in participants would fall to the ground and "play dead" for one minute to illustrate the gravity of conference topics. Alvarenga first became involved with climate issues while visiting her sister for the summer in Australia. In search of a project to dig her hands into during her extended trip, she visited the University of Queensland, where her sister was attending school. Alvarenga introduced herself to a professor who was researching climate politics and offered to help. The research she assisted with focused on the outcomes of COP20 and expectations for COP21, a topic that would prove salient when she was ultimately able to attend the Paris conference.
Alvarenga sought ways to stay involved with climate issues beyond the summer she spent in Australia, and discovered Engajamundo while searching for local opportunities in Brazil. Alvarenga is confident that the lessons she learned from her experience at COP21 will carry through to her future career. "There are so many issues linked to climate," she said.
Alvarenga is particularly interested in the possibility of exploring further the link between the effects of climate change and gender.
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