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Christiania Figueres. Photo: Oxfam International.

Christiania Figueres receives a tree to plant. Photo: Oxfam International.

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Open letter to Christiania Figueres

Clémence Hutin

17th November 2013

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCCC, personally excluded Clémence Hutin from COP19 for standing in solidarity with the Philippines. In so doing she betrayed her own rhetoric and revealed the UNFCCC's true colours - anti-youth, anti-democratic and beholden to corporate interests.

You tell me to get angry, to fight, to push leaders… and you kick me out on the first day for standing in solidarity with the Philippines.

To: Ms. Christiana Figueres Executive Secretary UNFCCC secretariat

From: Clémence Hutin

15 November 2013


Dear Christiana,

I am Clémence, the 23 year-old young environmentalist banned from the COP19 for standing in solidarity with the Philippines. As you did not respond to our first letter I would like to express a few things I still have on my mind.

As you can imagine, I’m feeling quite frustrated at the moment, mostly because I find this situation completely absurd.

Yesterday during the intergenerational panel, you told my friends, “I am very grateful for the fact that you are here and I know that many of you have made incredible efforts and sacrifices to be here and I welcome you here.” I did make an effort to come here. I took a bus from Paris to avoid taking the plane. I travelled 29 hours, and took two weeks off work to be here- my time in Warsaw counts as a holiday.

I had a chance to meet you for the first time this June in Istanbul, at the Global Power Shift. You gave an emotional speech to the plenary, telling young people to get angry, to fight. To fight for our future. You told us about your daughters.

These words now sound very hollow to me. I feel some grave inconsistencies in your discourse. You tell me to get angry, to fight, to push leaders… and you kick me out on the first day for standing in solidarity with the Philippines.

Christiana, did you really mean what you said in Istanbul? Actions speak louder than words. From what I’m seeing here, major dirty corporations are more welcome here than the youth.

I’d like to point out a second inconsistency in your words. During the panel yesterday, in response to my friends’ question about whether or not we could come back in, you told them: “I cannot let you know whether we will let them back in and if we do, when. Because that is a conversation for UN security, for them then to advise me on what their best judgement is.”

I completely agree with you on this. However, the chief of security made it clear we could come back the very next day. What we heard, however, is that you made this decision personally as the Executive Secretary.

I think there are more important things to be done presently. We only have two weeks a year to negotiate a climate deal, and you often stress how short of a timespan this is. You also often say, “I have a COP to run.” I’m with you Christiana. Please, run the COP. By all means, lead negotiatiors towards an ambitious, just, binding, deal.

You must know by now that sadly, people are losing faith in the UNFCCC process. At times, I myself doubt my faith in the political system. However, I do think that the UNFCCC has a pivotal role in pushing governments to avoid catastrophic climate change, and I don’t want it to let the UNFCCC to be discredited or weakened in any way, nor let the civil society to disengage from the process.

To avoid this, I believe the UNFCCC must now send a clear message: that the UN Climate talks are a democratic space, where civil society is welcome, and dirty corporations, whose business model is incompatible with any kind of ambitious action on climate change, are not.

I hope this message resonates with you.

Sincerely, Clémence Hutin.


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