Sierra Club Calls on Leaders at COP16 to Pull Their Heads Out of the Sand

Sierra Club Cancun Action photo

Photo credit: Jim Dougherty, Sierra Club
This week, I'm happy to introduce Justin Guay of the Sierra Club's International Climate Program, who is in Cancun at the international climate negotiations. He helped write this post to explain more of the important work happening over the past two weeks.

The Sierra Club has been busy building the momentum, and pressure needed to ensure that our politicians and leaders live up to international responsibilities and infuse positive momentum into the climate change negotiations in Cancun.This past Friday, the Sierra Club and the Sierra Student Coalition teamed up with Bill McKibben of, and the Center for Biological Diversity to call on world leaders to get their heads out of the sand. The event called attention to the danger climate change poses and the need for concerted global action.

When our forty member delegation wasn't calling the world's attention to the talks, the Sierra Student Coalition was busy building international bridges through the China-US Youth Climate Exchange.

The spirit of cooperation and understanding the event engendered between students from China and the U.S. was summed up well by Chen Yingao, a graduate student from Peking University, "Before Cancun, I didn't have a lot of experience communicating with American youth. The past five days have provided me a totally new view of the United States."

Meanwhile Sierra Club staff has been busy breaking the death grip fossil fuel interests have on international climate politics by exposing coal (and the World Bank's addiction to it) for the dirty 19th century fuel that it is. At the same time we are pushing hard for progress on a climate fund that can help build a 21st century economy. These efforts are made possible by a network of NGOs working together to form the world's immune system and beat back our fossil fuel disease.

If there is anything we have learned from our efforts in Cancun it is that many are ready to write the story of our failure. But the fact is that we, along with hundreds of other non-governmental organizations, thousands of youth, and millions around the world, believe there is another story to be written. A story that brings the best humanity has to offer to the forefront by standing up to the powerful interests that would just as soon see us act as the proverbial ostrich.

Ultimately it is our children who are bravely acting out this story and in Cancun we stand with them. To borrow the words of long time Sierra Club member, activist, and staff Glen Besa:

These students and young adults, many from countries on the front line of climate catastrophe like Africa and small island nations, need little advice from their seniors...But if I may humbly offer just one suggestion to all the students working for climate justice in Cancun, it is this—Recalling the response of the tiny country of Papua New Guinea to the efforts of the U.S. Delegation to sabotage to UN Climate talks in Bali in 2007, I would urge the students to exclaim in one united voice...'Lead or get out of the way!'

You can read more about the Cancun climate talks and our work there by following along at the Sierra Club Compass blog's international section.

Read more about COP16:
Today on Planet 100: Guide to COP16: Cancun (Video)
COP16 May Fail to Stop Climate Change, But An Abolitionist Shift Would Succeed
Brazil's Climate Chief Dampens Hopes for COP16

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