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Transy student plays unique role at U.N. climate talks in Poland; youth delegation challenges leaders

Transylvania senior Marcie SmithLEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania senior Marcie Smith, of Richmond, has been playing a particularly unique role at the U.N. Climate Change negotiations in Poznan, Poland. The two-week conference is wrapping up this week as world leaders try to make headway on a global climate agreement to be completed in Copenhagen, Denmark, next December. Smith is one of 20 youth delegates from the U.S. to attend the talks and be part of an international youth delegation of over 500 from 54 countries, sponsored by SustainUS.

Smith is one of the group’s deforestation policy experts, and gave a speech to the final U.N. session on deforestation policy. Because of her expertise, she has also been in consultation with other countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo was not able to send enough delegates to Poland to keep up with the workload, so Smith has been serving as their eyes and ears at meetings they have not been able to attend. She has assisted with policy statements to increase the capacity of the African country that is one of the most important players in a global deal on deforestation.

Frustrated by the lack of progress at the U.N. climate meetings, Smith and the rest of the international youth are taking the process into their own hands. They are demanding that the outcome of the talks be anchored by a survival principle that any global climate treaty must safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples. Their efforts are paying off. Nearly 80 countries, from Italy to the Marshall Islands, have committed to the survival principle. Online, nearly 5,000 citizens have signed onto the principle. In case this is not enough, youth are preparing to boldly intervene at the eleventh hour if this call for survival goes unanswered.

"SustainUS headed to Poland hoping to engage with the United States State Department and work towards American engagement with the international community," says Smith, "but is has become clear that the United States is not only a lame duck at these negotiations, they are a dead duck."

“Marcie is definitely one of our most exciting delegates with all the policy work she has done and her role in assisting the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said SustainUS Climate Program Coordinator Kendra Kallevig.

The young people have decided to take the lead where the U.S. government has failed, by engaging with delegates from other countries to work constructively toward a climate treaty. The U.S. Youth Delegation has already met with the official delegations of Sri Lanka, Kenya, Benin, Malawi, Sweden, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Poland and South Korea. The group has also met with Wisconsin Representative Sensenbrenner, staffers of Indiana Senator Lugar, and staffers of more than 20 other congresspeople.

Smith is an international relations and French double major and environmental studies minor at the University.

SustainUS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization or young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment at the policy-making and grassroots levels. SustainUS was founded in 2001 to prepare US youth for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

12/19/2008

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