A group of young people from over 50 countries attending the UN Climate Negotiations in Poland have achieved an extraordinary feat today: negotiating an international statement based on the “survival principle” and getting senior negotiators to sign their countries up to it.

Over 80 countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Costa Rica, Tuvalu and Bangladesh, as well as leading experts on climate change including Australia’s Tim Flannery, Sir Nicolas Stern and Nobel prize winner Dr. Rajendra Pachauri have signed on to the statement that a global climate change agreement must “safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples”.

For a conference that has otherwise been a bland non-event, this statement has resonated widely with delegates. Many nations have placed a “survival” placard handed out by the youth delegates over their country’s name placards:

Others, including Sweden, Madagascar and Australia, have referenced the youth statement in their speeches to world leaders.

Australia has not yet officially signed on to the survival statement, though Minister Penny Wong quoted from it directly at the Ministerial Roundtable today, where Environment Ministers from around the world gathered to share their vision for a post-Kyoto agreement. The Minister concluded her speech with the words: “We must safeguard the survival of all countries and all peoples”.

The Australian Youth Delegates at the United Nations conference are calling on the government to set emission reduction targets of over 40% by 2020 to safeguard their future and the future of Pacific Islands.

“Climate change is the issue of our generation,” stated Nathan Elvery, an 18-year-old Australian Youth Delegate, “those leaders that take bold, brave steps to steer humanity from the brink onto a sustainable course will be remembered throughout history, while those who wait or stand still will be forgotten. We hope Kevin Rudd will be the type of leader that all young Australians can be proud of by setting strong emission reduction targets on Monday that will set the tone for the international negotiations for the year to come”.

With Minister Wong’s statement today, it seems that the government may be moving to demonstrate the kind of generational change in their approach that young people expected from them upon their election one year ago. As the Minister said today, “all of us will need to be open to changing their position on elements that have until now become entrenched”.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

20 young Australians have come to Poznan, Poland for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change as part of the Australian Youth Delegation. Mostly self funded, we have travelled here to make sure the youth voice is heard on climate change and to ensure that world leaders step up and stop dangerous climate change. This delegation has been hosted by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), a coalition of over 20 youth organisations working on climate change issues around Australia.