At climate change summit, Chinese youth prepare to lead community action
Updated 12:48, 15-Dec-2018
Alok Gupta
From attending negotiations to jotting down notes on complex climate science, Yu Zongqi, a high school student from Keystone Academy in Beijing, is on a mission at the United Nations global climate summit, COP24, underway in Katowice, Poland. 
One of the youngest members of a Chinese youth delegation at COP24, Yu is tirelessly working to generate awareness about the impact of rising temperatures at the grassroots level in China. 
“Because climate issues are complicated, we are preparing to convey the message to the public through storytelling,” she told CGTN over the phone from Katowice.
China's vulnerability to rising temperature
According to a recent report, millions of farmers in the North China Plain are likely to face one of the worsts impacts of climate change. The intensive irrigation in the dry but fertile region increases the likelihood of severe heat. 
The irrigation exposes more water to evaporation, leading to higher humidity in the air than would otherwise be present and exacerbating the physiological stresses of the temperature, researchers explained. 
However, the agrarian community's awareness of the issue remains extremely low, affecting their productivity.
Meanwhile, China's aging population multiplies the problem by manyfold. By 2050, a third of the country's population will be over the age of 60, making them vulnerable to global warming.  
A 2018 study on climate change and health estimated senior citizens in China would face one of the worst consequences. The annual number of ozone-related deaths, mostly elderly, could nearly quadruple by the 2050s. There would be more than 78,560 more deaths each year than the current rate.
To bridge this gap, Yu is preparing a “keynote speech for her schoolmates to explain the action needed to deal with such issues,” she said. 
CYCAN's youth delegation at COP24 underway in Katowice, Poland. /CYCAN Photo

CYCAN's youth delegation at COP24 underway in Katowice, Poland. /CYCAN Photo

Her speech will also focus on the urgency to keep the temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius with an effort to limit it at 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
Alarmed by the situation, in October, China and the Netherlands – also a fast-aging economy – agreed to cooperate on the issue of climate change and an aging population. However, community efforts to deal with the crisis remain inadequate.  
Getting youths involved
“It's high time we youths take a strong initiative. Government alone cannot resolve the impact of climate change. It also needs a strong community action. We need to act urgently," said Zheng Xiaowen, executive director of the China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN), a non-profit. 
For nearly a decade, the organization has been sending students to attend global climate change summits known as Conference of Parties (COP). Yu is a part of CYCAN's delegation in Katowice. 
"Here at COP24, we are attending a series of sessions ranging from global stocktake, climate finance, nationally determined contribution to control emissions," said Ellery Li, CYCAN's project manager. 
“Lessons learned here will be discussed from the top to bottom level in China. The idea is to channel youth's energy to generate mass awareness,” Li added. 
“I am also planning a few activities to explain climate change,” Yu added.