Seventeen ANU students attended the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20-23 June.
ANU students were the largest Australian delegation at the Conference. The attended briefings with the Australian Government and asked hard questions about their negotiation tactics and line at Rio+20.
Some students were able to influence the negotiations through observing the negotiation process, making networks and relationships with negotiators and suggesting ways forward on several issues such as oceans management and the proposed new institutional framework for sustainable development.
“Funnily enough one of the best times to influence the process was on the bus rides to and from negotiations. I continuously spoke to ambassadors, negotiators and civil society leaders (sometimes intentionally seating myself next to them) and discussed different policies and ideas,” said delegation member Luke Kemp.
“”People need to realize that students and young people can make a real difference in a professional way. We have the expertise and skills to create compromise and further ambitions through networking, lobbying and suggesting text.,” he said.
Other students found themselves drawn to and inspired by the large civil society presence at the Rio+20 Peoples Summit – an alternative gathering of organisations and indigenous groups at a separate outdoor location in Rio de Janeiro where many prominent world leaders and activists attended to discuss their ideas on sustainable development.
There were mixed reactions about the political outcome of the conference, but the variety of people the delegation had the chance to meet and the feeling of being a part of the international community made the experience incredibly worthwhile and life changing.
“From protests about fossil fuel subsidies and green washing, to the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative and impressive voluntary commitments, following the private sector at Rio+20 can only be described as a rollercoaster of anger, frustration, optimism and hope,” said Tatiana Stotz.
The ANU delegation also met with Prime Minister, Julie Gillard to ask questions and discuss the Australian Government’s priorities during the conference.
The students presented the Prime Minister with a Brazilian soccer ball, signifying the need for a level playing field. They also presented her with a sunflower, signifying their wishes for Australia to invest in renewable energy and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
Delegation Director and PARSA President Julie Melrose asked Julia Gillard to consider creating a permanent youth position on Australian Government delegations to environmental conferences, as several other countries have done, to which the Prime Minister had a positive response.
The delegation will be hosting a series of forums this Semester 2 to talk about activities and experiences at Rio+20.
The delegation was supported by the Student Extra Curricular Enrichment Fund (SEEF), faculties, the Australian Centre for Environmental Law (ACEL), the Climate Change Institute, ANUgreen and the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).