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At COP22, Young Photographers Give a Face to Climate Change

COP22's International Youth Photo Competition reminds legislatures that climate change is everyone’s problem, encouraging comprehensive and inclusive action.
"The Clouds In The Form Of A Ball Of Flame" by Majed Noumi of Tunisia shows how signs of global warming are growing increasingly severe. 

As heads-of-state, environmental ministers, UN members, and various other governmental and diplomatic agents meet in Marrakech at this year’s COP22 to discuss how to best implement the conditions set forth during last year’s COP21—where the now-infamous Paris Agreement was outlined—a group of young folks ranging from 7-18* years of age are exhibiting their own take on the effects of climate change.


The International Youth Photo Competition, held by Addressing Climate Change, exhibited as a collaboration managed by The Lucie Foundation, and submitted through Your Shot, National Geographic's online photo community, is a competition that features the firsthand perspectives of some of the world’s younger populations. The winners’ photographical documentation highlights their own experiences of and modes of adaptation within these rapidly-changing climate conditions, and showcases the very tangible effects of climate change to an audience of highly powerful groups and individuals at the COP22.

"Happiness" by Chitra Lohana shows young people celebrating rainfall in Pakistan, a region where sand and dust storms are rampant. 

“Young people are critical in this global effort to address climate change,” says renowned COP21 photographer Henry Dallal, founder of Addressing Climate Change. In creating this competition, he says that he “became inspired to create a global competition involving the younger generation, our future climate custodians, at a grassroots level.”

As divisions continue to grow between demographics based on age, geographical location, socioeconomic standing, and political and economic power (or lack thereof), the politically-involved people of the UNFCCC and the COP must determine how to best protect the lives of everyday citizens, many of whom look up to skies of flame-laden clouds with young eyes, and whose water is scarce and contaminated.

"Black Earth" by Abrar Hossain of Bangladesh shows how temperature rise contributes to waterless riverbeds.

The exhibit is mounted in what is known as The Blue Zone, a private zone that is, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Reducing Emissions from Degradation and deforestation (REDD+) representative, Jyoti Mathur-Fillip, dedicated to “a selected set of people, who absolutely need to be registered.” Almost everyone given access to the Blue Zone is in some way governmentally involved, and so poised to regard these images as the petition for inclusive action that they are.


The barriers of access to technologically-intensive climate solution endeavors remain high and well-formed, and yet, “in today's world everyone has a camera in their mobile phone, and to take a picture you don't have to be a professional,” Dallal tells CNN. “Anyone can do it.” This democratic accessibility evokes for governmental agents meeting there what a 2° C rise in global temperatures would mean for some of the most vulnerable regions—receding glaciers, and increasingly-sparse grasslands required for raising life-sustaining livestock, to name but a few consequences. Others employ more curated strategies, like one photograph that creatively depicts a melting ice cube next to a candle flame, using the expressive medium of photography to put an image to an abstraction.

"Dusty Air" by Leund Ka Wa of China shows the air pollution created by factories utilising fossil-fuel. 

As this year’s COP is continually referred to as “the COP of action,” these on-the-ground communities, and particularly the voices of our future “climate custodians” must be given proper attention. “In a country like Morocco or in Africa for example, where more than half the population is under 25, it is essential to get young people involved,” notes  Driss el-Yazami, who is the COP 22’s Head of Civil Society Activities.

As spokesperson for the UNFCCC, Nick Nutall notes, the goal here is for “governments, along with cities, investors, businesses, and all of civil society to do their utmost to reduce emissions and build resilience.” It is only by seriously considering these divergently experienced and expressed positions that the governments here will succeed in actualizing the protocols put forth in last year’s Paris Agreement.


The International Photo Youth Competition is part of the Climate Change — In Focus project and was exhibited in the Blue Zone at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7-18, 2016.


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