Reflections on Power Shift 2013


Last week I had the opportunity to attend Power Shift 2013, Australia’s largest youth climate summit. Power Shift was held in Melbourne from the 13th -15th of July and was comprised of over 1,500 climate concerned youth.

The concept of Power Shift began in the United States in 2006 and has since become a global phenomenon which has been held in countries including Canada, NZ, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ukraine, Belgium, Europe, Africa, India, Japan and parts of South Asia.

During the three day conference, we listened to fantastic plenary speeches from the likes of Tim Flannery, Paul Gilding, Samah Hadid, James Hansen, Bill Mckibben and Robin Eckersly; participated in informative panels and workshops and led a rally through streets of Melbourne demanding that our politicians aim higher on climate change.

The summit also included a political Q&A which was extremely valuable to young voters given that the Federal Election will be occurring in a matter of months. Participants were given an opportunity to hear from Opposition Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt, Greens Leader Christine Milne and Labor Spokesman Kelvin Thompson and to ask them questions regarding their parties climate policies.

Power Shift received extensive national media attention and was an opportunity for youth to demonstrate their commitment to the issues of climate change as well as environmental and social justice. The term #Powershift2013 was trending on Twitter twice over the three days and some of the most powerful names in politics were talking about the impact that Power Shift was making.

It was an amazing experience to hear so many diverse speakers discussing issues including poverty, migration, biodiversity, health, politics and economics. The summit highlighted the fact that climate change is not just an environmental issue but a human rights issue that pervades all aspects of our lives. During the summit it was stressed that whatever background you come from, there is something unique and positive to be offered to the climate movement.

As a youth climate summit, Power Shift emphasized the immense role that young people have to play in deciding the future direction of our planet. With around 2.2 billion of the earth’s population under 18, it is the youth who will face the disastrous consequences of impending changes to the climate. However, this also means that young people have a unique opportunity to facilitate the transition to a clean energy future. Power Shift 2013 proved that youth not only have the right and need to tackle climate change; they also have much to offer.

Personally, some highlights from Power Shift included hearing Pacific Islander and Indigenous perspectives regarding climate change as well as listening to NASA’s James Hanson speak via video link about how limiting fossil fuels needs to be the bottom line. Low lying nations such as Kiribati, the Maldives and Tuvalu will not survive a 2 degree warming of the Earth’s atmosphere as they are already facing the impacts of sea level rise, salt water intrusion and increased storm surges. Hearing youth from these nations outline their situation and witnessing their determination was a humbling experience that has reiterated the urgency of this crisis.

Although we have a long fight ahead of us, the overall message coming from Power Shift 2013 was a positive one with Bill Mckibben and Tim Flannery specifically highlighting their renewed sense of belief that change really is possible. From China’s massive investment in renewable energy to Obama’s recent climate plan for the United States, we may be on the cusp of a global power shift which will transition the world away from fossil fuels towards a cleaner and more environmentally and socially sustainable future. This is my hope.



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