COP17 Blog: High hopes, low expectations

In the first of RTCC’s series of blogs from negotiatiors and activists heading to COP17 in Durban, Luke Hughes, campaigns officer on the UK Youth delegation, spells out his hopes and fears for the conference.

If there were an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, I think you could kind of expect people to know the name of the international group that had been set up to figure out a way to divert it.

It would be called the UNFCBUA, the UN Framework Convention on Blowing Up Asteroids, and people would take a keen interest in whether it were doing its job.

NASA shot of the earth from the International Space Station

Would the earth's government's unite to protect the planet from an asteroid?

This is how I regard the less fictional, but no less important, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I got involved with climate advocacy through UNICEF, another offshoot of the UN.

They introduced me to the idea that kids around the world already have to deal with the effects of climate change, and it inspired me to try to do something about it.

The spectrum of possible action that confronts someone who wants to work on a cause is often pretty damn scary.

Working at the grassroots level is fun, fulfilling and important.

That’s where I started – I did an assembly in school, I set up a group for kids interested in helping out a university with its sustainability research, I wrote articles and blogs and things.

But there’s always that nagging feeling that you’re the person who’s trying to cut the grass with a pair of nail scissors.

So instead, I went to the other extreme, and got involved with the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Youth Delegation to the UN negotiations in Durban, South Africa at the end of this month.

I’m flying out to Durban on 23rd November with high hopes, huge excitement, but perhaps depressingly low expectations.

The ‘high hopes’ is the optimistic part of me talking – this is the biggest stage on which the drama of the climate change debate is played, and it’s the basis on which a deal that can safeguard my generation’s future can be ground out.

The ‘huge excitement’ comes from the sheer magnitude of the event – tens of thousands of delegates, two weeks of tense negotiations stretching into the night, actions, campaigning, lobbying, all in a foreign country at the height of summer in December.

The ‘low expectations’ are a product of the normal and rational part of my teenage mind – like all the other justifiably disillusioned young people around the world who have seen this decision-making process fail so hopelessly for so long, I’m not being naively idealistic about Durban.

Yet I’m a teenager who has been lucky enough to be granted a voice, and I’m going to make sure it’s heard.

When it is heard, it will be full of the hope and excitement of a young person who needs these international negotiations to protect their future.

And it will be heard by those who have the power to make the right decisions – I just hope they realise it’s just one voice among millions, asking for the same thing.

Luke Hughes is Campaigns Officer for the UK Youth Delegation (UKYCC) heading to COP17 in Durban. He’s 19 and in his 2nd year of studying Physics at Oxford University. You can follow his progress and find out more about the UKYCC’s plans in Durban at

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