Get to Know Our Youth Delegates to the Paris Climate Talks: Joshua Turnquest

November 7, 2015 / By Joshua Turnquest

Courtesy of Syracuse in Focus

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will occur from Monday, November 30, 2015 through Friday, December 12, 2015 in Paris, France. This gathering will also be the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP11). As has been the case since the 15th COP, the NAACP’s role is to amplify a racial justice analysis and a set of equity-based demands in the discourse on climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation. With 2015 being the launch of the UN Decade on People of African Descent, the voice of the NAACP will be particularly critical.

Through the racial justice lens and the analysis of the differential impact of climate change on communities of color worldwide, the delegation will emphasize the imperative for aggressive action by the US Government (USG) on emissions reduction, advancement of energy efficiency and clean energy, and capacity building of communities towards resilience, the three pillars of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

The NAACP brings a unique voice in that the vast majority of U.S. groups engaging in the UNFCCC process are representing a foreign policy agenda in which the struggles of this country’s frontline communities are often rendered invisible. In addition to allowing these communities the opportunity to make their concerns heard, delegations will also hold the USG accountable for promises and/or claims they may make about actions taken at home.

Introducing Joshua Turnquest

Growing up in New York City, I was constantly surrounded by technology, an essential factor in a productive society.  The city was a bright, vibrant place, even at night, filled with LED images and the sound of an intense civilization. I loved it. But as I grew older, I began to question the reality of our chromatic city. I began to ask myself questions like “How is this all possible?” “Where do all these materials come from?” and predominantly, “Who’s paying for all of this?” My mother, being a single mom with not many resources to work with would always remind me how nothing is free, and I knew there was a gargantuan cost for The Big Apple’s excessive illumination.

Technological abundance and diversity cannot coexist without an environmental regulator. Unfortunately, many people are just finding this out now, after more than two thirds of the world’s known fossil fuel supply has been depleted.

By late high school, I had begun asking more beneath-the-surface questions and seeking resolutions to our energy crisis, and was even awarded a research scholarship to attend an engineering summer college program at Syracuse University. This program taught me about issues including peak water and oil and it was also during this program that I became more heavily involved in community work & activism. I have since served as president of my local Syracuse NAACP Chapter, working to bring awareness to various issues afflicting our communities.

I’m currently studying at the SUNY College for Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY. I am so happy to be around so many different people passionate about environmental conservation and preservation. I noticed early on though, that not many of them looked like me. As I networked and made connections around campus, it became very clear to me that I represented a minority population in the field of natural resource management. As a senior now, I want my brown colleagues to know that this is a field they can succeed in too.

We need as much talent as we can get because, in recent decades, people are becoming more aware of the importance of natural resource preservation. But while there has been a concerted effort to address our insatiable thirst for oil consumption, the question remains: will America be able to withdraw from its fossil fuel addiction, and turn to renewable energy instead? Will this transition be an equitable one in which all of our communities share in the benefits?

I want to make sure these questions and more are raised in Paris and add my voice to the growing chorus demanding bold action. A fully sustainable environment may be in the not too distant future. But we need to push global leaders to make strong commitments to emissions reduction and we need to hold them accountable. I aim to be on the cutting edge of this complete transformation of our society.

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