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Futuristic Climate Advice

The Copenhagen Climate Conference kicked off today with the People's Summit, but last week's youth conference offered the freshest ideas



Copenhagen is a beautiful city. It’s the best place I’ve ever ridden a bicycle. The lanes are massive and there is a city-sponsored bike share program. It’s home to the famous Christiania Bike, a three-wheeler for the whole family. And there’s a city policy that every citizen must be able to reach a park or beach in 15 minutes on foot.

As cities go, they don’t come much greener, which makes Copenhagen (Hopenhagen, as the branding goes) a good choice for the UN’s 15th annual Climate Change Conference. Over the next two weeks, as many as 10,000 people a day will hop planes and fly to Copenhagen to argue about who has to give up the most carbon.

After months of dithering Stephen Harper is going, having grabbed Obama’s coattails at the last second. I hear Harper’s bringing his own bag of monkey wrenches, handy for derailing proceedings, or if necessary clubbing Greenpeace protestors.

But before the politicians get to their treatying, treatising and general mucking about, the people shall have their say. Today is the people’s climate summit. Canada’s own Naomi Klein kicked things off by pointing out that the official meetings will be an exercise in branding—-literally, with Coca Cola and Siemens sponsoring. “The death of this planet brought to you by…”

Klein concluded by urging industrialized countries to behave like good little children and clean up after themselves. But even before the adult activists took the stage, four high school students from Quebec attended the Copenhagen Children’s Climate Forum and delivered the same message as Klein.

The students were the winners of a climate change video contest. Dina Desveaux of Halifax, an education manager at UNICEF, was one of the judges, and trained the youth on international conference protocol. ““I asked them to imagine themselves far into the future,” Desveaux tells me, “perhaps talking to their grandchildren. If they could leave only one legacy behind on the topic of climate change, what would that be?”

She was amazed by the creative solutions the youth came up with, including an “Internet of Sustainable Energy,” a mapping of where renewable energy surpluses can be shared or drawn from in times of shortage elsewhere. In a post-carbon world, such a resource would help Halifax draw solar energy from the valley on fog days, for example.

In Copenhagen youth from around the world presented ideas to the president of the adult conference, in the form of a declaration. It reminds me of those old insurance ads, where people meet their future selves and seem surprised they turned out okay. But the key there was listening to the good advice of a future generation.

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