In tears, Christiana Figueres tells youth that Cancun will be “insufficient” but a necessary step

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"In tears, Christiana Figueres tells youth that Cancun will be “insufficient” but a necessary step"

The head of the Cancun climate talks fought back tears in a meeting with youth activists on Wednesday, as she frankly admitted the insufficient ambition of global leaders to protect the future.  Brad Johnson, blogging onsite, has the story.

The head of the Cancun climate talks fought back tears in a meeting with youth activists on Wednesday, as she frankly admitted the insufficient ambition of global leaders to protect the future. Christiana Figueres, who replaced Yvo de Boer as the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change following last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen, teared up as she considered her responsibility to her daughters and the youth of the world. She told the activists, part of Tck Tck Tck’s Adopt a Negotiator program, that the Cancun negotiations will be “insufficient” and that “nothing will be highly ambitious,” because of the economic and political constraints. But she believes that “each one of use has the moral responsibility to do the absolute best that we can.” Asked what inspires her to lead the effort despite the challenges, she choked up as she answered that it is “the next generation”:

It’s you. It’s the next generation. Look: We’re doing this but this has nothing to do with us. It’s all about you. It’s all about you. We’re the ones that have caused the problem but you’re the ones that are going to have to pay for it, right? The fact is, I’m the mother of two women about your age, and I realized many years ago that I had inherited a planet that was a diminished planet. And that if I didn’t do something about it, my daughters would grow up in a planet that had been severely diminished by what we’re doing. And I just can’t look at my daughters in the eyes and not do whatever I can.

So, it’s you. It’s about the kind of planet that you’re going to have. It’s honestly not my planet. It’s yours, okay? We borrowed it from you for a few minutes. But you will take it over very soon, because it’s yours. And you’re going to have to give it over to your children.

Honestly, there’s no perfect job here, okay? Nothing that we are going to do in Cancun is going to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Nothing is going to be highly ambitious. Nothing. Everything here is going to be one step, and everything is going to be insufficient. But it is the best that this group of people in these circumstances, with these political constraints, in this economic environment, can do for the time being. And as soon as this finishes we have to start pushing for the next step. And so it goes. But each one of us that is here has the moral responsibility to do the absolute best that we can at that moment under those circumstances. So what inspires me? It’s you.

Watch it:

“We can’t let something like Copenhagen ever happen again,” Figueres said, reflecting earlier comments that expectations for a comprehensive, total agreement is a guarantee for failure in the UNFCCC process.

– Brad Johnson is reporting and tweeting live from the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

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21 Responses to In tears, Christiana Figueres tells youth that Cancun will be “insufficient” but a necessary step

  1. Anne says:

    From 1998 through 2005 I helped to organize an annual field course for “Hill staff” — staff of Members of the US House and Senate — in Costa Rica, sponsored by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). During time time, from 1998-2000 I believe, Ms. Figueres was on the OTS advisory board and helped to plan and instruct the course from time to time. I suppose some men will point to the tears and call her weak, but, from my perspective, a deep sense of sorrow is a sane and appropriate reaction to the dire situation we face, where the collective response is nowhere nearly commensurate with the threats before us. Indeed, it is the next generation that will pay, the next generation that must lead, the next generation (including my own teen son) that will condemn our inaction, our lame excuses, our selfish attitudes. Christiana’s tears are my tears too, and, in more poetic terms, all of the tears of all of us, men and women alike, who understand the gravity our collective predicament and feel individually helpless to fix it — well, these tears could fill an ocean.

  2. Tim L. says:

    I quit the Republican party in 1980 because of Reagan’s neanderthal views on the environment. Today’s GOP makes Reagan look like a Green. Thanks to them, the crooked Koch brothers, and Big Oil, we won’t have to await their deaths to condemn them: they’re bringing Hell to us all now. I share Figuere’s sorrow and am determined to give denier MFs all the Hell they so richly deserve.

  3. dp says:

    to anne and christina, the train will only change direction if its way is blocked, and there is another track under construction.

    in china this means people refusing to harm themselves or the earth.

    in europe this means bringing the future of materials & consumption forward.

    in the united states this means throwing the money changers out of the temple so that green employment is treated as the top national priority it is.

  4. dp says:

    to anne and christina, the train will only change direction if its way is blocked, and there is another track under construction.

    in china this means people refusing to harm themselves or the earth.

    in europe this means bringing the future of materials & consumption forward.

    in the united states it means throwing the money changers out of the temple so that green employment is treated as the top national priority it is.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    Anne, #1:

    That was beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Susan Anderson says:

    Anne at #1, I hope you don’t mind: I pasted your comment in full over at the inadequate coverage of this speech on DotEarth (with link).

    Thanks for your great heart, and thanks Dr. Romm for all the terrific work you do in these exhausting times.

  7. Some European says:

    Yvo de Boer in Bali:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqbV0myiibQ
    That’s the only footage of this moment that I know about.
    (The title is very biased and says: “Dutch cry-baby saves world of downfall?”)

    I see a trend here. Anyone in that position, with that knowledge about the severity of the problem, would crack.
    There’s no way you couldn’t cry, being chief negotiator at failing talks.

    This is a very important message. I think spreading these images would do more good than harm in giving the general public a sense of urgency.

  8. Anne, your words say what so many of us feel. Too many have remained dispassionate, removed from the reality of what we face. If that knowledge does not bring a person to tears at least once, nothing will. Those who continue to do all they can to prevent our transition to a green economy will someday be brought before a court of law and be sentenced for what they have done. I have to believe this. If our generation doesn’t see to it, the next surely will.

  9. Anne says:

    Back again, feeling some appreciative connection with the nice comments on my comment on Joe’s comments on Christiana’s comments to the children…. like a wave of tears rippling in the collective waters of humanity. To Susan, I’m fine with the repost but now see a couple of typos, guess I wrote it hastily – an “of” missing in between “gravity” and “our” in last line, the word “time” written twice instead of “this time” in the third line… but, sometimes when emotion overwhelms us, like it seems to be doing with me today, our heads and fingers don’t work so precisely. Heavy hearts can be sloppy sometimes, and it’s good to have a good hard cry — then — it’s also good to get back into the fight again, with even more resolve than before. Anyway, thanks for all nods, I suppose there is some consolation in knowing that when we cry, we are not all alone in the struggle, rather, brothers and sisters in arms.

  10. Sasparilla says:

    Frankly its good to see someone officially involved with the negotiations in Cancun showing emotions somewhat appropriate for the current situation. #1 Anne, excellent comment.

    Of course mother nature doesn’t care what is politically feasible.

  11. Chris Winter says:

    Anne wrote of Ms. Figueres, “I suppose some men will point to the tears and call her weak…”

    Ah, but they can’t do that without dissing John Boehner

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/msnbc-anchors-debate-and-deride-rep-john-boehners-weeping-speech/

  12. 350 Now says:

    Another thoughtful video interview from Ms. Figueres in Tianjin with the Trackers youth a few months ago at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BMhOgganuM&feature=related

    I too appreciate Anne’s comments (#1)

    I’m reminded of this quote:
    “The best work is done with the heart breaking, or overflowing.” – Mignon McLaughlin

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    C&S with Bill McKibben in Cancún

    Linh Do and Tim Hall interview Bill McKibben on the 28th of November in Cancún, Mexico before COP16, the UN climate change negotiations.

    Bill talks about his work at 350.org and as a writer, before discussing the future of the environment movement, the virtues of young people and his expectations of COP16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRFgru1E1ng&feature=related

  14. Susan Anderson says:

    I am happy to report that my comment at DotEarth caused Andy Revkin to add the Figueres quote to his original article, though the link is only at the end of my selected comment (#10); I think he, like me, though it would be read more widely if the source was hidden at the end, sigh. Anne, I’m sorry I didn’t check for typos, and I agree that the overflowing heart is more important than perfection. We are just commenters, and with all our hearts we can decry the lies that proliferate and damage our future almost beyond recall, even if we get weaving soon. As far as I can see, we have seen so many predictions met with reality at a level that matches the high end of the error bars (or beyond), that I am getting more worried by the day.

    However, it is important to keep hope and to keep trying rather than giving up.

    Thanks!

  15. Jeandetaca says:

    Thank you for the article and the comments. Tears naturally come when we speak of the reality of the disaster we are building, specially thinking of the young generations after us. Our unpowerlessness to mobilize and to change our society toward a climate friendly way of living is choking.
    Last year, before and during Copenhague the strong and emotional message was the one of Climate Justice Fast (5 students in a 45 day fast, supported by hundreds and thousands around the world).This emotion and these tears can create this wake up we absolutely need, but it has not occured so far.

  16. B Byrne says:

    The tears are real, and this is why.

    sppiblog.org/news/a-nest-of-carbon-vipers

  17. Chris Winter says:

    RE: That SPPI site — is that truly a blog? It doesn’t seem to allow comments.

    Then again, if I were in SPPI’s position, I wouldn’t allow comments either. Their propaganda is threadbare.

  18. Susan Anderson says:

    SPPI is closely associated with the creepy by wealthy clown Monckton who laughs all the way to the bank.

  19. Sou says:

    “But it is the best that this group of people in these circumstances, with these political constraints, in this economic environment, can do for the time being.”

    I’m not convinced the political constraints nor the economic environment is going to improve substantially over the next five years. The signs are that these will get worse if anything. What hope does that give that governments will be able to do enough in time?

    Will it be up to business, ordinary people, cities rather than nations?

    Clearly we cannot wait for governments to do enough in time. Each year something else will pop up that is ‘more important’. I understand there is a possibility that governments will fudge the numbers so much in regard to agreements, that countries will be allowed to emit more, not less.

    http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/cancun-calling-rorts-and-all