A large team including a couple of LMU students is helping organize LCOY, the largest climate conference for young people in Europe. This year’s event is taking place in Munich – at LMU’s Biomedical Center.
What options remain to us in the struggle to curb global warming? What might a global energy transition look like? And how can we fund the repairing of climate damage and compensate the communities affected in a fair and equitable manner? Subjects like these are discussed at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, which have been held annually since 1995. These Conferences of the Parties (COP), as the official UN jargon terms them, are a major political and media event. The upcoming conference – dubbed COP28 as the 28th iteration of the event – is due to begin at the end of November in Dubai. Since 2009, COP has been accompanied every year by an official event for young people called the Conference of Youth (COY), which also has the UN imprimatur. And in many countries, Germany among them, Local Conferences of Youth (LCOY) have been established. This year’s German LCOY is taking place from 6 to 8 October at LMU’s Biomedical Center Munich. In addition to various LMU researchers who are giving presentations, there are numerous LMU students among the 60 or so young organizers. Five of them tell us what they are expecting from the conference and why they got involved with LCOY.
Raising awareness of the need to change course
“Why do we need a climate change conference for young people? The climate crisis is omnipresent. Our planet Earth is visibly and tangibly suffering from the way in which we inhabit, cultivate, and exploit it. The consequences are numerous and violent. We need greater awareness of the big picture and that our actions and non-actions have consequences for the present and the future. It’s the young people in our society who are deciding today what direction their lives should take. It’s the young people and their descendants who will be confronted for their entire lives with a world that requires conscious and sustainable handling so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. That’s why we need a climate change conference for young people. It gives us the opportunity to focus on the challenges of the climate crisis at the scientific, political, and economic levels while getting to know other young people who are grappling with the question as to how we can best tackle this crisis.”
Lucia Richter is in the eighth semester of a degree in medicine. “I think LCOY is a wonderful initiative that allows me to acquire new knowledge, deepen existing knowledge, and discuss topics with experts and peers who are passionate about climate. Moreover, it’s a lot of fun and the people are really cool :). Other than that, I’m trying to contribute with my music, which is my big passion in life – by performing at the climate camp, for instance.”
Figuring out how to make our economy sustainable
“We have the ambitious goal of covering all aspects of climate change at the conference: How can we make our economy sustainable? What have politicians done – and failed to do – to date? What does this look like at the international level? And what levers do I have as a young person to effect change? The agenda covers everything from new developments in research into CO2 reduction to climate education to climate change in art. Our guests are as various as the subjects covered: To name just a few, we have the comedian Moritz Neumeier; and we have Peter Altmaier from CDU; we have Danyal Bayaz, the Green Party Minister of Finance in Baden-Württemberg; and we have Lukas Köhler from FDP; oh yes, and we have the economist Niko Paech. And about 300 more speakers all told! For all that, however, it is the participants who are the lifeblood of the conference. In all formats, we’re striving to get them directly involved. We want to create space for exchange and networking. If participants ask critical questions at the panel discussions with Lidl, Google, Emilia Fester from the Greens, or FDP politician Lukas Köhler or talk with speakers or each other after an event, then we’ve achieved our goal. Only by changing people’s perspectives and through shared solutions can we create a new future.”
Maya Bukowski is in the second semester of a master’s degree in intercultural communication. “I came to LCOY because of my interest in climate education and stayed because of the people – in particular, the open exchange of views and ideas at LCOY is tremendously important to me.”
Driving force of political change
“I’ve no doubt that the single most important outcome of LCOY 2023, as with the previous conferences, will be the new ideas that young people are exposed to and the new contacts they make, inspiring them to continue to fight for the climate or to start out on this journey. After all, young people can become the driving force of political change. And the speakers, too, will go home with new perspectives and the memory of encounters they would otherwise not have had. Moreover, there is an LCOY report which compiles various opinions, proposed solutions, and main topics that are important to the participants. Through the recognition of YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, we can get this summary on to the stage of the global Conference of Youth and UN Climate Change Conference while also distributing it to German decision-makers.
After conferences in Kassel, Heidelberg, and last year in Lüneburg, we wanted to hold this year’s LCOY in southern Germany. So we reached out to LMU and are delighted that the collaboration with the Biomedical Center (BMC) has come about. The rooms at BMC are just perfect, with space for our large stages and an outdoor stage, many attractive seminar rooms to facilitate discussion and engagement, and – always important – a cafeteria and student bistro directly on the campus, so that everyone can replenish their energy levels. LMU is involved at all levels: it’s thanks to the support of the university administration that LCOY 2023 can take place here, while we’re looking after the organization as a team of volunteers and many LMU professors are appearing as speakers.”
Julian Hirschmann is starting the fourth semester of a master’s degree in physics: “For me, the climate crisis is the most important challenge of our time. So long as we still have the chance to change something. When I took part in LCOY in 2019, I found it a great opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. I’m also involved in various other climate organizations, although my primary focus currently is with LCOY.”
Over 300 speakers, 1,200 participants, a whole lot of organizing
“Organizing a conference like this involves a wide range of different tasks. We’ve now completed the bulk of the work, such as putting together a top-class program with over 300 speakers, all of whom have to be invited, persuaded, and looked after. To manage this, we not only programmed the website, but also our own CRM, including program management. And of course the technology and logistics on site have to be planned, everything from the check-in to the livestream. At the same time, we’re liaising with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, which is providing us with funding, and with Young Friends of the Earth Germany (BUNDjugend), and we initiated the cooperation with LMU. There is our publicity work, so that the participants hear about LCOY in the first place – and then we have to look after all the questions people have.For all these tasks, we have a team working on a fully voluntary basis. And because we all have other work to do – some of us are studying; others are at school; others again have started their careers – this is a big sacrifice of time. Nevertheless, it’s lots of fun thanks to the nice people and pleasant personal encounters.”
Simon Hirschmann is in the fourth semester of a degree in computer science. “I got involved with LCOY, because I don’t want to stand idly by while the world goes down the drain. Climate activism means engaging all parts of society. In my view, LCOY offers precisely the discourse between politics, business, and above all young people that is unfortunately all too often neglected.”
Have fun while you’re at it!
“Is it OK to have some fun when the subject-matter is so serious, one could ask. Yes, absolutely, I think. First of all, when you’re passionate about something, it’s automatically enjoyable. I believe this is the essence of what LCOY is about. Moreover, after a long, intensive day absorbing a lot of information, there needs to be lighter activities to balance it out. That’s why we’ve put together a varied fringe program at the conference, catering for all participants. As well as presentations, readings, and fireside chats, we’re also offering a leisure program with live music, karaoke, board game evenings, and movies. And those who just want to have a party can do that. In addition, we’re giving the participants a great chance to get to know each other at the “Meet&Speed.” In this way, they can network with people from all over Germany and make new friends. All this shows that LCOY and fun definitely go together!”
Lukas Nanos is in the seventh semester of a degree to become an academic high school teacher, specializing in the subjects of German, history, and social studies. “Three years ago, I joined up through a friend, who had co-organized the first LCOY back in 2019. The shared determination to set important changes in motion and the team spirit between all the members fascinated me from the very first team meetings. And it still impresses me to this day: many young people, often with very different backgrounds, working together to raise more awareness for climate protection.”