The UN-accredited 2015 New Zealand Youth Delegation is a voice for the youth-climate movement at the climate-change conference in Paris, 20 November–11 December 2015. The conference is set for the world’s nations to negotiate and commit to a universally-binding agreement on climate-emission reduction. The young New Zealanders want to see a fair, ambitious and binding deal that will lead to a significant reduction in this country’s carbon emissions.
Wellington-based Francisco Hernandez is part of the delegation. Originally from the small village of Coloong, Philippines, he gained a first-hand perspective of climate change when his village was flooded frequently during the La Nina (rainy) season. His parents moved to Manila and then with the young Francisco to New Zealand in 2003.
Francisco attended Liston Catholic Boys College, Auckland, and graduated in 2008 with a scholarship to Otago University. He started up the St Vincent de Paul Otago University Chapter and as student president in 2013 focused on access to public transport and warmer housing legislation. Francisco moved to Wellington and is now working at Parliament.
Francisco says climate change is a problem that is already happening. ‘The impacts of ocean acidification are impacting agriculture and water supply significantly for Pacific Island nations. Climate change makes ecological disasters more likely to happen and these disasters create conflict. We see it in the Pacific and a lot of developing countries are not in a good position to adapt to these changes. Not only have they not created the problem, but they are bearing the worst effects of emissions.’
Francisco says even if New Zealand is a small part of the global emissions framework, it doesn’t absolve us from responsibility for action on reducing emissions. ‘On a per capita basis we have one of the worst emissions rates – twice that of the UK. A recent OECD report cited us as having one of the worst waste-to-landfill ratios and some of the highest carbon-pollution levels. The Youth delegation currently campaigns for the government to future-proof New Zealand ecologically by ceasing subsidies to fossil fuels exploration and to aggressively support renewable energy.
‘The Paris conference is a chance to get everyone talking about climate change – and get the pressure building up on our government to take action and push for stronger leadership on energy efficiency across all infrastructure towards a ‘carbon-zero’ economy.
‘We are called by Pope Francis and our faith to be stewards of creation and we need to take that seriously, not only for our future but our children’s future and the future of creation.’