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Page last updated at 07:47 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Championing Wales in Copenhagen

Cerith Rhys Jones
Cerith Rhys Jones queued for 13 hours to get into the conference

BBC Wales news online's Rhodri Owen speaks to one of Wales' young climate change champions who has travelled to Copenhagen to represent the views of young Welsh people there.

On his first two days in the Danish capital this week, Cerith Rhys Jones learned a hard lesson about the reality of an international agreement on tackling climate change being reached at this month's UN summit.

Having arrived in Copenhagen on Sunday, 16-year-old Cerith, who is one of six young people appointed climate change champions for Wales, didn't even manage to gain entry into the conference centre until late on Wednesday afternoon.

"I queued for five hours on Monday only to be told that the machine that supplies the accreditation passes was not working so I might as well go home," said Cerith from Cwmgors in Carmarthenshire.

"I then queued for eight hours on Tuesday and finally got in to the conference at 4.30pm so there was very little I could do that day.

"At first it was frustrating having to queue for such a long time, but then even one of the top executives of a big organisation like the Wordwide Fund for Nature had to queue for up to seven hours to get in."

As long as we reach some sort of initial agreement this week, Copenhagen will have been some sort of success.
Cerith Rhys Jones, climate change champion

It was only on Wednesday that the AS-level student from Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera was able to start doing what he had travelled to Denmark to do - represent the opinion of the youth of Wales and try to make the conference more relevant to the people of Wales.

"On Wednesday I had a full day," says Cerith.

"I was able to go round talking to a number of international organisations, such at the Red Cross and - a group that is campaigning to restrict CO2 emissions to 350 parts per million in our atmosphere.

"I'm armed with a sheet of messages that the young people of Wales have agreed on and it's my job to get these messages across to as many organisations as I can."

The messages include a wish for the world's leaders to come up with "a fair, ambitious and binding treaty on tackling climate change", Cerith explains.

The group also wants a 40% reduction of emissions by 2020 and has expressed a wish for local and regional governments, like the Welsh Assembly, to get more power and recognition in the battle to combat climate change.


"Our message has been received quite well," says Cerith, who returns home later. "Wales is one of the leading nations in the UK in putting together strategies to address climate change.

"I spoke with a youth organisation from America who were very interested in what Wales is doing."

Cerith was appointed a climate change champion in January 2009, following a Welsh Assembly Government competition to find six young people passionate enough about the environment, and the future of the planet, to be able to spread the message.

He is clearly passionate on the subject, but having witnessed Copenhagen at first hand is realistic about the chances of the summit throwing up a full and lasting agreement on fighting climate change.

"I really hope that something will come out of the summit," he says. "Now is our chance to make a difference, to put in place an effective treaty.

"But in the run-up to Copenhagen I think a lot of people were too optimistic that it would come up with a full agreement.

"As long as we reach some sort of initial agreement this week, Copenhagen will have been some sort of success.

"I'm not confident that a full treaty will be put in place here but hopefully one will follow on in the next year from what was begun here."

New hunt for climate ambassadors
12 Oct 09 |  Mid Wales
Young climate change 'champions'
21 Jan 08 |  Wales

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