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Congratulations on a Year of Activism

Attendees of the Youth Clean Energy Forum

In 2009, you all relentlessly proved that the youth climate movement is more powerful than ever, and as an eventful year ends we want to thank you for all you contributed. 

Our votes, our meetings with elected officials, our community outreach, our regional Power Shift '09 summits, our "It's Game Time, Obama!" actions that led to the new administration's first-ever White House Youth Clean Energy Forum, our presence in Copenhagen, our investment in new leadership and a dynamic campaign vision for 2010 leave us poised to realize long-awaited results in legislation, participation in next year's critical midterm elections and engagement with the general public.

We experienced some setbacks this year with Congress and Copenhagen, but there is still reason to be optimistic about the future -- most notably because of YOU! We've seen our collective power in action, and we're confident that we'll continue to make a huge impact on securing a clean and just climate and energy future for our generation.

Remember while you're spending the holidays with friends and family to tell the story of the amazing year we had and encourage them to join us in this fight.

Tell them about our meeting at the White House in which we held the President's top officials accountable for mountaintop removal, the myth of "clean coal" and insufficient emissions reduction targets. Tell them about the $4 billion coal plant we saw shut down in Ohio over Thanksgiving. Tell them about the local community leaders we saw look their elected officials in the face and demand an explanation as to why they should bear a disproportionate amount of the negative effects of climate change and dirty energy. Tell them about the stimulus money we've seen used to create the green jobs we heard about on the campaign trail.

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LIVE BLOG: Youth activists sit-in, refuse to leave until negotiators listen to 11 million voices calling for a fair, ambitious,

This Live Blog is cross-posted from  Make sure to check it out there to see all the updates and read the 250 comments!

1:54 More to come – don’t think that this is the end of us.  Over 150 people watching live stream.  Thousands of people know what’s going on. Thanks everyone for joining us, please continue to leave comments below.  Gotta run before I get swept away!

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Young Elected Officials Call for Obama to Secure Clean Energy Economy

Young Americans in Copenhagen press for energy action now

COPENHAGEN – On the first day of the critical week of United Nations climate negotiations, young elected officials in Copenhagen and in the United States called on President Obama and Congress to secure a strong agreement that will grow clean energy jobs and address climate change.

Five young elected officials presented the statement (printed below) to the United States delegation in Copenhagen on Monday in advance of President Obama’s address all UN delegates on Friday, December 18. “Our message to President Obama and Congress is simple,” said Andy Katz, Director of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in California, and the Chair of Sierra Club California. “Revitalize our economy with clean energy jobs. Young Americans have the most at stake – and the highest price – if we fail to solve the climate and clean energy crisis.”

The statement attracted support from over 95 young elected city council members, mayors, and state representatives from 30 states. “While the rest of the economy is struggling, clean energy jobs are a real bright spot,” said Rep. Jeremy Kalin (North Branch, MN), chair of CLEAN, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now working with the White House and the United States Senate.

“Action in Copenhagen and in Congress is critical to scale up the job opportunities.” “Our dependence on oil is a serious threat to America’s national security, which is why both young people and veterans have called on making America more secure by taking control of our energy future,” said Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx (Brunswick, ME), an Iraq war veteran in Copenhagen with the Truman National Security Project. “The world is looking to the United States to lead again on climate solutions,” said Representative Kate Knuth (New Brighton, MN), attending the conference as a policy mentor to a youth delegation from the Will Steger Foundation. “America cannot afford to be on the sidelines of the new, clean energy economy,” said Deputy Town Supervsior Dominic Frongillo (Caroline, NY). “Congress and President Obama can help regain our competitiveness and ensure the most advanced wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars say ‘Made in America.’”

The statement presented to the United States delegation reads as follows:

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COP15 WEEK 1 RECAP: Survival is On the Table

This post was written by Josh Lynch and has been cross-posted from

Last night the Avaaz team had dinner together at a local restaurant. We went around the table and shot out highlights from week one of COP15. My highlight was Tuesday afternoon. Tuvalu, a tiny island nation already being forced to plan for the displacement of its population, had just changed the course of the negotiations. Tuvalu, supported by over 100 countries was standing up for a legally-binding and enforceable agreement as opposed to a political one. Less than an hour after hearing the news of Tuvalu’s brave actions, organizations and youth mobilized to make signs and rally inside the Bella Center to say “Tuvalu is the Real Deal” and “Stand with Tuvalu”. By Friday the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) had submitted a formal proposal that finally put a real climate deal on the table in Copenhagen.

Before I offer a few things you should know about week 1, I want to offer two priorities for the final week:

1. Raise Expectations by Supporting Real Leaders
The final week is all about holding heads of state accountable for a writing a real deal. To raise expectations, we must generate a groundswell of citizen support for the demands of small island states, Africa, and other vulnerable nations inside of COP15. These brave leaders are calling for exactly what we want – a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty that gets us to 350 ppm and limits warming to 1.5 degrees C. We need to remind our leaders that our fates are bound together. By ensuring survival for the world’s most vulnerable we can avoid climate tipping points that would put all of our futures in jeopardy.

2. Stop a Greenwash
We need to draw a bright line between a real deal and a greenwash. Coalitions of nations have formed to create loopholes in everything from how we account for forest emissions reductions to whether we will create additional funds for adaptation and technology transfer or steal money from existing aid budgets. Despite a new administration, the United States remains the central figure keeping global ambitions low at COP15. When countries try to water down a deal, we need to be ready to respond both in Copenhagen and back home on a dime. If the deal is riddled with loopholes, sets emission targets too low, does not include strong long-term financing for developing countries, or is not legally-binding, it simply will not work. With 110+ heads of state putting their credibility on the line in Copenhagen, the risks for an empty political deal rather than a real deal could not be higher.

With those priorities in mind, here’s what you should know about what happened in week 1:

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From Maryland to Copenhagen -- the first of many reports of people taking action back home

I thought you all would like to see this great post from Leslie at CCAN (below) about high schoolers in MD rapidly respoinding and expressing their support for Tuvalu.  We are in the midst of compiling all of the rapid response action, and will have more to share, but this is a great start (haven't reported yet? Do it here!)! 

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GRITtv: Jessy Tolkan: Youth Can't Wait


Jessy Tolkan, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, joins us from Copenhagen to talk about her work with youth fighting for a clean, just energy future.

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US Youth Crash Climate Denier Live Webcast in Copenhagen

Fifty young Americans took over a climate denier conference hosted by a prominent conservative organization this evening in Copenhagen, rushing the stage and telling the live TV audience that a clean energy future is the real road to prosperity in America. The young people, merely a fraction of the more than 350 US youth in Denmark for the UN climate negotiations, entered a session of the Americans for Prosperity "Hot Air Tour" speakers series and were able to drop two banners and gain access to the conference's stage. The live event was webcast to over forty climate denier rallies in cities across the United States.

The students entered the event in small groups, joining a paltry audience of five conference attendees, who had come to hear climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton speak about the Copenhagen climate negotiations. After the first five minutes of the event, student representatives from SustainUS, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Cascade Climate Network, and other American youth NGOs displayed banners reading "Climate Disaster Ahead" and "Clean Energy Now." After security agents at the event took the banners, the young attendees began a chant of "Real Americans for Prosperity are Americans for Clean Energy." The chant lasted five minutes, as the youth took the stage and displayed their message for the live video feed being sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, despite evasive action on the camera crew's part. As they left the stage, Lord Monckton repeatedly called the activists "Hitler Youth" and "nazis."

"Clean energy creates jobs," says Rachel Barge, a 24-year-old entrepreneur from San Francisco, CA who was the first young person to raise her voice at the event, "These climate action delayers and science deniers are  stealing bold, new economic opportunities from the American public."

Laura Comer, 21, of Strongsville, OH, seconded Barge, saying, "We're representing the majority of Americans on this, particularly young Americans. The real America wants clean energy - not more fossil fuel-funded lies about the science."

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Copenhagen's Conscience: The Youth Climate Movement Won't Settle

One of the most common themes on the Obama campaign trail was that sometimes the people are far ahead of the game, ready for change and waiting for their leaders to step up and represent them effectively. As I arrived in Copenhagen yesterday and stood in line with 20,000 member of the international NGO community to enter the Bella Center, there was no question in my mind that this is the case with fighting climate change. The people of the world are ready, and this city is so primed for bold action - if only our leaders can come to the table with a real commitment to progress.

With President Obama's trip to the summit pushed back to next week, the activity here is quickly ramping its way up from frenetic initial enthusiasm to discerning skepticism regarding how serious the United States is about delivering the change our climate and energy crisis necessitates. While some are convinced that this gathering is little more than a vehicle of green-washed lip service, I see many compelling reasons to be optimistic about our prospects for substantive movement on these issues in early 2010.

Foremost was a call I received yesterday afternoon from Lisa Jackson, our fearless EPA administrator, who was energized by her agency's endangerment finding announcement and commitment to regulate Green House Gas. On the heels of the youth climate movement's first meeting with President Obama's top White House officials last week, it was a "Pinch Me" moment to celebrate her news while standing in the lobby of a Copenhagen Hotel, in the shadow of 192 countries and their delegates, finally making some headway on an issue that has been disregarded for nearly a decade when we already had no time to waste. I was particularly moved that Administrator Jackson recognized the efforts of the member organizations of the Energy Action Coalition, and that she would take the time to thanks us for our hard work, refusal to settle, and for keeping the pressure on when backing down might have been easier or more politically convenient.

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Taking Our Actions From Local to Global, and Making Sure Our Voices Are Heard in Copenhagen

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate negotiations, as our movement shifts into high gear to get a global deal (and a fair, ambitious, and binding one at that!), I wanted to chronicle and reflect on some of the grassroots action that has been going on (lots of it in just the past week!).

There have been a ton of great posts reflecting on the White House Youth Clean Energy Forum.  One thing that came out of each was how our local leadership both made the meeting possible, and made the meeting successful.  Without the thousands of young people calling on Obama for his leadership, and calling very specifically for a meeting with youth leaders, the meeting never would have happened.  Once in the room, the 150 young leaders from diverse backgrounds had a ton of experience and insight to offer, and were able to demonstrate that there truly is grassroots leadership across the country.  We had campus leaders from dozens of states, community organizers on the frontlines of stopping mountaintop removal mining, field organizers setting up innovative programs to fuel green jobs training with home weatherization, and clean energy entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley.

And while we had this impressive cross-section of voices in DC, the action was still happening across the country (and abroad!):

  • Young people working with the Maryland Student Climate Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network led a No Coal Rally in Baltimore to oppose proposed transmission lines from West Virginia into their state.  What would be carried on those transmissions lines?  You guessed it, coal power.  Check out this great video they produced and keep a special eye out for youth voices Zainab and Zoe.
  • Students from across Connecticut hit up the office of Senator Lieberman this past Friday to deliver two very important messages: as a chief architect of climate legislation, he must ensure that the authority of the EPA is not gutted and that his state maintains clean and healthy air, and that our targets and timelines must be in-line with what science demands and lead us to 350 ppm.  Check out their boldness in the above video.
  • At University of Missouri, students wasted no time in protesting anti-climate statements by their President Gary Forsee, immediately taking to the streets calling for clean energy and their President to not issue statements not reflective of the students or university. Chants of "Forsee has no foresight" could be heard around campus!
  • And this is only the beginning: Kentucky Students held a coordinated day of action to move their campuses beyond coal, the Leadership Campaign continues to build in Massachussets, young people in the NW aren't letting up against natural gas - this is the story of our movement: ever expanding, relentless, and everywhere.

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Youth Climate Movement Grows Up... In a Good Way

I went to the White House today, as one of 150 youth climate leaders invited to take part in the Clean Energy Forum.

Let me repeat that: youth activists were invited to discuss climate policy with 4 cabinet secretaries. This is not the same movement it was two years ago, and I think the changes have been overwhelmingly positive.

A little more than two years ago, a nervous and exuberant Energy Action Coalition gathered 5,000+ youth in DC for Powershift07. Van Jones said, ‘remember, remember, the 5th of November...’ and we raised some eyebrows in DC. But mostly, we sparked the feeling of a movement in a whole new circle of leaders: young people who went home with a sense of urgency and a sense of the plan.

Two years later, a huge youth election campaign, another Powershift, 100 coal plant permits denied and a lot of green jobs created, a small selection of an amazing movement of people were welcomed to the White House as partners in crafting the clean energy future WE want to see.