‘Solar Generation’ Reflects on Bonn Conference Inaction

It’s not just pin-striped politicians and seasoned renewable energy experts reflecting on the conclusion of the International Conference for Renewable Energies, held earlier this month in Germany. An international delegation of eighty youths from Greenpeace, called the Solar Generation, also attended in hopes to push forward concrete international action toward increased worldwide use of renewable energy. After all, it’s the younger generations who are likely to feel the increased side-effects of a burgeoning world population dependent, almost exclusively, on limited, polluting fossil fuels.

Bonn, Germany – June 23, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] At the Bonn conference, 154 countries signed an international declaration recognizing the importance of renewable energy to reduce poverty and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In terms on international cooperative action, that commitment was the most that came out of the conference. Differences between nations, and a general attitude of non-commitment for renewables left many in the Solar Generation disappointed. Youth delegates from 11 countries (including Germany, Mexico, United States, Argentina, Switzerland, France, Belgium, China, Russia, and the Philippines) participated in SolarGeneration activities outside the main conference and lobbied inside the conference hall. Their efforts were intended to put pressure on the delegates to make concrete commitments to increase the global share of clean energy production and move “full speed ahead for renewable energy.” The two youth delegates who were sent from the U.S., Hillary Lehr and Adrienne Vannieuwenhuizen, were chosen based on the impressive clean energy work they have done on their campuses, and were able to share their experience with other students who were interested in leading similar university campaigns. Much planning and preparation went into the demonstrations that the young people made during the four-day conference in Bonn. This international youth delegation said they represented the future generations that will be robbed of a livable environment if the political leaders of today do not take aggressive action to transfer subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energies in order to create a clean energy economy. The demonstration on the first day of the conference depicted a flood scene representing the effects of climate change, complete with lifeboats, rubber boots, and sandbags. A banner was displayed, which read, “We don’t want wet feet – full speed ahead for renewable energy.” In another creative activity, the youths were successful in getting delegates from 41 countries to sign their Solar Wall of Fame with their handprint and flag from their country. In order to sign, countries had to agree with the demands of the SolarGeneration. Those that signed included Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Dominican Republic, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, France, India, Yemen, Kenya, Congo, Laos, Mongolia, Nigeria, Norway, Austria, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Zambia, Switzerland, Slovenia, South Africa, Syria, and Cyprus. While a large majority of conference participants came away from the conference feeling it was a success, the SolarGeneration was deeply disappointed at the inability of countries to reach a global renewable energy target, implement mandatory renewable energy investments from Export Credit Agencies, and establish a concrete follow-up process to ensure commitments made are actually realized. In addition, the SolarGeneration said the U.S. delegation in Bonn expressed their unwillingness to commit to an international declaration with a vision of renewable energy being the most important energy source of the future. Through discussions with U.S. officials, the American youth delegates said they understood the only commitment of the current administration was to fossil fuels, not renewables. The SolarGeneration may not have been pleased with the U.S. administration’s view, or the lack of substantial concrete action, but they said they left pleased to have “built a strong international network that will be used as a launch pad for a global youth campaign that is determined to lead the world toward a sustainable, clean energy future. Maybe it will take another generation for the world’s government’s to unite behind renewable energy
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