Biggest-Ever Youth Gathering on Climate Change to Call for Real Action in Copenhagen

Daejeon (Republic of Korea)/Nairobi (Kenya) – Emerging leaders representing three billion people – the children and youth of the planet – will converge on the Republic of Korea to voice their demands for action on climate change at the Copenhagen meeting.

The Tunza International Children and Youth Conference, in Daejeon (Republic of Korea) on 17-23 August, will be the biggest youth gathering on climate change before the UN climate conference in December.

This will be a key opportunity for the more than 800 participants from over 100 countries to demand that their governments reach a scientifically-credible and far-reaching new climate agreement in Copenhagen.

By staking their claim to a low-carbon, resource-efficient, environmentally-sustainable future, the generation that will inherit the planet will also remind the world that they have the greatest stake in the creation of the green economy of tomorrow.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said: “The Tunza Children and Youth Conference is an important gathering of young people and an opportunity for them to discuss and to prepare their positions surrounding Copenhagen and climate change, but it is more than that. It is a gathering of the generation that will inherit the outcome of the decisions taken in December and beyond.”

“For it will be in the lifetime of the three billion children and young people alive today that the glaciers of the Himalayas will either persist or melt away; that the sea levels will stabilize or rise, swamping a third of Africa’s coastal infrastructure; that the Amazon will remain the lungs of the planet or become an increasingly dried-out and disappearing ecosystem, and the polar bear will continue as the iconic species of the Arctic or, like the Dodo and the dinosaurs, merely an artifact in the world’s natural history museums,” he added.

Some Highlights of the Tunza Children and Youth Conference:

1. A Global Town Hall will use state-of-the-art technology to link the gathering to hundreds of other young environmental leaders who will be meeting around the globe – from Nairobi to Sao Paulo and from Stockholm to Bangkok – to agree on a message to deliver to world leaders.

2. The Seal the Deal! Global Debate will bring together high-level figures from politics and green activism, including Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, Cameroon Environment Minister Hele Pierre, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and prominent environmentalists such as David de Rothschild (who will sail to the Pacific Garbage Patch in a boat made of reclaimed plastic bottles), Roz Savage (who has rowed across the ocean to raise green awareness), and Luo Hong (who raises green awareness through photography) along with young activists.

3. The Daejeon conference will also see the launch of a social network platform for youth on climate change – – and a Google/YouTube Global Youth Debate on climate change that will continue online until the Copenhagen meeting in December.

4. The conference will also feature the global Awards Ceremony for the winners of the UNEP 2009 International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment.

The participants were selected from thousands of applicants based on their outstanding green achievements on their home turf – and the impressive range of initiatives illustrate just how much today’s children and youth understand and want to commit to the environment.

Some of the striking and creative projects started by young Tunza participants include an award-winning original rap video by two Canadian teenagers on how to reduce your environmental footprint, a drive to distribute 500 low-energy lightbulbs in Nepal, a carpooling initiative in Samoa, the creation of a ‘Navajo Green Economy Fund’ to generate green jobs for Navajo youth, a recycling project in Sierra Leone and a river clean-up in Russia, among many other examples. All the initiatives will be put to a popular vote during the conference to determine the best one out of the several hundred on display.

The participants will also take part in a host of activities from the practical to the far-reaching, from making natural soap to sharing ideas on how to mobilize mass youth action for the environment. Through workshops on key issues including water, sustainable lifestyles and endangered species, they will have a chance to debate, discuss and share tips on how to make the world a greener place and take charge of their environmental future. Other activities in the packed weeklong schedule include sessions on green jobs, a workshop on making a solar energy car, the painting of a mural and a concert of instruments made from recycled material, among many others.

The Children and Youth Conference is part of the global UN-wide ‘Seal the Deal!’ campaign being spearheaded by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to galvanize political will and public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement. Over the coming months, the ‘Seal the Deal!’ campaign will mobilize over one million young people to march across one hundred capitals and deliver to global leaders their declaration of priorities on climate change as agreed at the Tunza Conference.

Russian Federation

In 2007 Alina Bezhenar was elected for the Youth Delegate 2007-2009 CEHAPE/EEHC position, (Children's Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe/European Environment and Health Committee). She has been extremely active since then and took part in various WHO meetings during 2007, 2008, 2009 years. Currently, she is working for the preparation of the 5th Monisterial Conference in Parma, Italy in 2010. She is a good networker and was also a participant of the Tunza conference in 2007.

Narkiza Mukhametshina said, “Sustainable lifestyle is an important topic for us as a young generation; we are responsible for the future. A sustainable future would make us recognize the importance of aspects such as a healthy lifestyle. This will be achieved by eating healthy food, fruit that is rich in vitamins, vegetables that contain minerals. Eating foods such as chips, crisps, pizzas and having drinks such as cola and other products should be avoided. Children should eat healthy and nutritionally beneficial food. To highlight the importance of this topic, we are going to organise lectures by nutritionist on the significance of nutritional eating habits. We will also have discussions with local farmers about agricultural techniques and also have lectures by medical experts on eating disorders. In addition, we will have a party called the "Good Food Party" encouraging healthy eating.”

Polina Bezmaternikh and Evgenia Poskina said, “There is a river and a pond in our town choked with wastewater enterprises. There are concentrations of some dangerous materials in the water ecosystem of our town. Our main objective is to make the Beloyarsk pond and River Pyshma clean and beautiful again.

To achieve this we need to: clean the shore of the pond and the river from waste, e.g. bottles, wrappers and etc, remove water chemical and biological harmful materials, change the citizens and the enterprises behavior and treatment of the environment.

The results of our project to be the following: to have analyzed the Pyshma River system, the type and sources of its pollution, to have made a map of the river and marked the location of the towns and enterprises on it, to have conducted several public actions for the removal of waste from the river shore, to present our project to the future leaders of the Urals towns and call them to join to us. The impact of the project will be:

1. The pond and the river should become a favorite location for people and known as a place for leisure and rest as it was in the past. The river system will also be safe and comfortable for swimming and fishing.
2. The water will be return to the natural conditions.
3. Children will recognize themselves as real owners of this native place and this will lead them to be responsible and care treatment of the environment.
4. Local community will be attentive to children’s voices.
5. People and enterprises will treat the environment and particularly the water with care.

Matvey Matveev and Tatiana Ponomareva work on a project whereby schools in the north-western part of Russia and in the northern part of Norway (the whole Barents region) cooperate in an effort to map the phrenology of selected species in the North Calotte region. They observe species of plants, birds and insects (18 objects in total) and collect data. The data is then sent to Svanhovd Environmental Centre through the Internet.

Evgeny Barannikov and Denis Davydov call themselves the “Green Teens”. They said, “We study environmental problems and ways that people can solve them. We have already learnt a lot so far, and we want to share our knowledge and our concerns with the people in our community. That is why we decided that our project should be devoted to raising environmental awareness. Our initial challenge was to find the ways of reaching out to people and to draw attention to the environmental problems on a local and global scale. How we as children and teenagers can reach out to people with environmental messages. How we can encourage the busy and disinterested adults and skeptical teens to stop and think for a moment and reconsider their current behavioral consumption. We pondered over our interest is rooted and recognized the following aspects: Social networks, music, mass media, role models, games and sport have proven to be key influencers for young people. Arts and culture engagements also have a strong role to play. Visual means of appeal undoubtedly present a unique and effective opportunity for promoting environmental awareness and action by drawing the attention of spectators. We needed to develop a strategy that would enable us to make our statements. So after a series of discussions we came up with a simple idea graffiti is the solution! We are enthusiastic, active, concerned and eager to create, so graffiti turned out to be one of the most effective and simplest methods of spreading our message. We chose graffiti because; it is a fashionable modern subculture. It is popular with both kids and teens. It requires a diverse team and would therefore team up kids studying art, languages, ecology and other things to act together. We think it is a form of art that can enable us to involve more people in environmental activities. It can be an international language for the young generation and a means of voicing their concerns about nature. Graffiti immediately catches your eye there is hardly another form of modern art which has the ability to mobilize as many people. Additionally, it lasts long, is fun, entertaining and educative. We hope it will help us highlight the most crucial issues concerning our environment and pull the trigger to start a forceful public campaign on the environment. Moreover, using the English language in our drawings enables us to broaden and strengthen our friendly international relations and thus contributes to the process of globalization. Having done a lot of prior discussion, sketching and selecting the best drawings, finding the right slogans and styles, colours and images, we came up with a few compositions. Reduce, reuse, recycle, Plant a Tree, Save Our Planet. There was a great interest in what we were doing and people seemed very approving, they asked questions and some even offered their walls for us to use next time. My friends and I have seen that small steps can lead to big changes. We hope that we have managed not just to raise awareness on environmental issues, but to change attitudes and inspire people to take action. We would really like to participate in the Tunza International Children’s Conference to share our experiences, learn more from others and to voice our concerns for a better planet.”

Renata Hasanova, Karina Farhutdinova, Amir Suleymanov, and Robert Ilyasov said, “We live in Bashkortostan, a Russian province in the Urals. Our region is rich in mineral resources, including crude oil, coal and ores. Consequently, some of the processing industries are in Ufa, the capital of the region. Very often they are the main source of environmental pollution. To preserve the beauty of our native land, its forests, rivers and lakes and to prevent ecological catastrophes we must be responsible to future generations for preservation of the land we live in. Our city is situated on the bank of the Belaya (river) which is in critical condition. The river is in danger of dying-out unless the level of pollution from the city is drastically cut. Half of the fish species in the local rivers are at levels below reproduction factor. All over the region we have problems with fresh-water springs because of their pollution. It takes water 25-30 years to restore. Much of the city’s sewage flows into the Belaya untreated. 30 % of the sewage water is dumped into the Belaya River by industrial enterprises and household waste goes there unfiltered. It is a deadly cocktail of various heavy metals and human waste. Our school has set up a club, called Rodnik (fresh-water spring). The club aims to revive littered areas as well as to improve existing water resources. Our process will be to first find an abandoned spring and take water samples for analysis. Then we clean up the litter around the spring and improve its access roads. We hope that a mutual exchange of experience among conference participants will provide us with new innovative ideas and ways of solving our local environmental problems.”

Daria Podosenova said, “The youth project "Climatic patrol" in the area I live, Sverdlovsk region of Russia. Our region leads in the emission of carbon gases. We know that the problem of climate change is exceedingly urgent for the world and the urgent efforts of all countries and regions are necessary to resist this problem. We at the school initiated the climatic patrol.

1. We know, that because of inefficient use of energy resulting are unnecessary losses and there is excessive carbon emissions. Therefore, we go on streets and we take note of electric lights, working during the day. Usually these lights are registered under the municipal services or publicity agents. We write down the address, where unnecessary light is burning and we inform to municipality/authority.

2. We know, that in Russia 25-30 % of emissions occur because of inefficient use of energy, therefore we utilize the energy audit of the house and schools: we consider the optimum variant of use of electrical devices. We ask parents and director of the school to change ineffective devices.

3. We know, that trees are the “lung” of the planet and they save planet’s climate. Thus we have begun to plant trees near the school and on the sites near our houses.

The results of our activity are as follows:

- the deenergisation of more than 20 lamps, burning by day, the installation of energy efficient equipment at school and home and finally, 20 planted trees.

We would really like to share our experience of this activity at a Tunza conference; there we will find our colleagues in other countries together. We will decide on how best to approach the problem of climate change. It is necessary to solve climate change for the future to generations!

Notes to Editors:

About the conference
The Tunza International Youth Conference is being hosted by UNEP and the UNEP National Committee for Korea with the support of the Daejeon Metropolitan Government and several UN entities including UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, WMO, UNESCO and UN/DESA, as well as international youth organizations like the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and private sector partners, such as the Bayer corporation, the Hyundai-Kia Automotive group and Samsung Engineering.

About the participants
The children and youth taking part in the conference were selected from 3,000 applicants on the basis of their environmental projects and how active they are on green issues. This year’s edition is the first time the Children and the Youth are being brought together for the same conference – the ‘children’ participants are 10-14 years old and the ‘youth’ participants are 15-24.

About the Town Hall
The Seal the Deal! Global Town Hall will be facilitated by the Washington-based nonprofit Global Voices, which has pioneered the use of technology to convene large-scale deliberations to impact policy making.

About the International Children’s Painting Competition
The top winners of the 18th International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment will be announced in Daejeon on 20 August. More than 2.4 million children from around the world took part in the artistic competition about the challenges of climate change and what we can do about it. The competition is organized every year by UNEP, the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE), Bayer and the Nikon Corporation.

About Tunza
The Tunza Youth Strategy, adopted in 2003 by UNEP’s Governing Council, is a long-term strategy to engage young people in environmental activities and in the work of UNEP. The word ‘Tunza’ means ‘to treat with care or affection’ in Kiswahili. The Tunza initiative aims to develop activities in the areas of environmental awareness and information exchange on the environment for children and youth. For more information, please visit

For More Information Please Contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, or when traveling: +41 795965737, or e-mail:

Theo Oben, Head of UNEP's Outreach Unit, on Tel: +254 20 7623262, or e-mail: