APPROACHING the end of the first week of COP21, cautious optimism seems to be dwindling, and whether this continues into next week as the clock ticks closer each day towards midnight remains to be seen.

The past two days have focused on youth and education, both in the Conference of Parties (COP) as well as in the civil society space alongside the negotiations. Featured in this was the 2050 Climate Group, an organisation from Scotland which presented on educating, engaging and empowering the next generation of leaders on climate action. Scotland’s minister for environment, climate change and land reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, joined the group for her first speaking commitment in Paris and talked about Scotland’s leadership on climate change, commitment to empowering young people and moral obligation to act.

There were also discussions on climate change education and sustainable development led by the Foundation for Environmental Education, which engages with young people through Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment worldwide.

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There have been strong statements made by many leaders about young people, including Barack Obama and Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Obama said: “The knowledge that the next generation will be better off for what we do here – can we imagine a more worthy reward than that? Passing that on to our children and our grandchildren so that when they look back and they see what we did here in Paris, they can take pride in our achievement.”

Figueres said: “We need you to step up to meet the climate change challenge by activating your network, extending your reach and raising awareness of the great risks we face but also of the great opportunity we have in addressing these risks. We need young people to be actively engaged in the transition to low-carbon, highly resilient lifestyles.”

However, young people and civil society more generally remain firmly on the outside of the process and the discussions about education are being had by adults, politicians, ministers and not with teachers – let alone schoolchildren.

The organisers made a significant attempt to connect civil society, young people and the general public with the negotiations and the agreement by including a large, vibrant civil society space. The global networking and knowledge-share opportunity that this has presented is incredible and the connections being made, skills being shared and atmosphere in this space is exactly what the global climate movement needs.

However, as long as this remains segregated from where decisions are actually made, it remains a superficial act. There are very few accredited ministers, diplomats and negotiators who have made their way through to the civil society space to engage with the public. Young people who have observer accreditation are still excluded from sessions where any decision-making is taking place. Yet, the demand for involvement is clear: in Scotland, 83 per cent of young people are worried about their future if the pace of action on climate change does not increase, as we found in a recent Keep Scotland Beautiful consultation. I’d like to see a more transparent and democratic approach; one that engages young people in the decision-making process.

Elizabeth Dirth is a Climate Change Officer for Keep Scotland Beautiful and vice-chair of the 2050 Climate Group. To keep up with the latest news from the UN climate talks in Paris, follow @sccscot on Twitter.