Blog Post

Insight: UN Civil Society Conference

By: Thomas Holst

The United Nations (UN) selected Salt Lake City as the site last month for its 68th Civil Society Conference, which featured the theme of making “cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030.” Salt Lake City was a model for the conference theme with its 100 percent renewable energy target set out in the Climate Positive 2040 plan.

The Salt Lake City venue was the first time the UN conference convened at a United States location other than New York City.

Over 5,000 attendees from 130 nations attended the UN conference, the largest international gathering in Salt Lake City since the 2002 Olympics.

More than 40 percent of attendees were young people between the ages of 18 and 32. Conference organizers had targeted this age group believing it was most concerned about improving global living conditions.

Is this age group ready to take an active leadership role? Two examples from Sweden and Utah indicate the willingness of young people to lead out in environmental causes.

Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg began at age 15 skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm about the need for lawmakers to address environmental issues. Following Greta’s lead, 1.8 million schoolchildren in 82 countries recently skipped school on a Friday as part of the #FridaysForFuture movement. Greta was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism on climate change.

Locally, Piper Christian, who just started her sophomore year at the University of Utah, was a member of the committee that drafted the Youth Climate Compact for the UN conference.

Spurred by poor air quality in Logan, Piper’s school club, the Logan Environmental Action Force (LEAF), helped draft SJR 9 “Joint Resolution on Climate Change” for the 2017 Utah Legislative session. SJR 9 failed to pass but started a conversation around climate change with state and local leaders.

In 2018, HCR 7, “The Concurrent Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship,” was sponsored by Representative Rebecca Edwards and Senator Todd Weiler. LEAF students testified on b