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LCOY Austria_Benjamin Schemel

The LCOY - Amplifying the Youth Climate Voice

A three-day youth climate conference in Vienna aims to collect climate action ideas and bring them to the COP27 in Egypt.

By Chris Cummins

One of the many injustices of the climate crisis is the imbalance between power and vulnerability.

Most of the decisions of climate policy are made by the older generation of political elites. The younger generations, those who will live out the future dictated by those decisions, often feel left out of the decision-making process, patronized or simply ignored.

For young people in Austria who want to wake the older generation from its apparent climate lethargy; there are two routes to fight back. They can take to the streets with the likes of Fridays For Future and raise the profile of their demands and/or they can force their way into active political debates with the LCOY, the Local Conference of Youth, which is taking place this weekend.

“The LCOY is a three-day conference for people aged between 14 and 30,” explains co-organizer Nina Reiter, from the group CliMates. “We want to create a community where people can support each other, exchange ideas and get informed in a variety of workshops. We then collect the ideas and wishes and pass them on.”

A Bridge To The COP

These ideas are packed into the travel cases of two Austrian youth delegates who have been chosen to represent the youth of this country at the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt next month. They will join LCOY youth delegates from dozens of other countries to lobby for the voice of the younger generations on the biggest stage for climate policy.

“They’ll bring our demands and discuss them with governmental environmental speakers in Egypt," says Nina’s colleague Emma Reynolds.

someone writing

@LCOY_Lara Portha

Ignored and Patronized

So the LCOY is a direct feeder system built into the structure of the COP that allows younger generations to have their say. But will those important voices be listened to properly? Will their concerns and ideas be taken seriously?

I’ve been at former COPs, including at Copenhagen, Paris and Katowice and I’ve seen the halls, which were full for the likes of Al Gore, suddenly empty when they youth delegates host their events. Many older decision makers seemed to think the youth event is a good time for a coffee break.

“Youth delegates have had a frustrating time at climate conferences in the past,” admits Nina Reiter. “All we can do is keep trying to pass on our voices. The delegates not only go to the global COP, they are also in Austria where they speak to the environmental speakers of the five main parties. They are the link between youth and politics, so at least we hope to get more of a hearing at the local, national level as well.”

people learning

@LCOY_Jennifer Vacha

Besides says Nina’s colleague Lena Bauer, it’s worth talking part in an LCOY on a psychological level alone. She’s been to the past 5 LCOYS, once as a participant and for the past four years on the organizing team. There are networking opportunities galore, but also a sense of empowerment through solidarity:

“On the one hand, as a participant, it is overwhelming, but also very motivating,” she says “because you have a lot of people around you who feel the same way, who are often frustrated, but, just like you, they want to do something about the problem.”

The LCOY organizing team

Chris Cummins

Subsidized train tickets through an ÖBB voucher and a Schlafplatzbörse have made it open to young people from across the country, you can couch surf your way to climate action. As well as the chance to make allies and friends, there are some more light-hearted moments. Besides the key-note speeches, from the likes of President Alexander van der Bellen and the informative workshops there’s also a pub quiz.

For Nina this more conventional route of political activism goes hand in hand with the more raucous protest of the likes of Fridays For Future. These different forms of political activism for the climate go hand in hand and are mutually beneficial. She says that although the LCOY might seem a “less radical” approach it is a vital way of establishing a path of dialogue with the established political elite and as a way of giving the climate activist network community a sense of consolidation and communication.

having fun

@LCOY_Jennifer Vacha

Besides, she adds, different people prefer different tools. Maybe someone who feels ill at ease in a street demo might feel more at home at the LCOY.

The Empowerment of Agency

The climate crisis is an overwhelmingly complex and serious challenge. Sometimes, as a journalist, I finish interviews with scientists and then play with my 5-year old boy and have a shudder of crippling fear about what the future might hold for him. But, as a society, we can’t afford to be crippled; we have to act. And the feeling of agency, is so important.

“The feeling that you are doing something,” concludes Nina “is the best medicine against depression.”


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