International Athletes want action at COP21
As the biggest U.N. climate conference in a decade begins on Monday in Paris, hundreds of thousands of people around the World are marching for action. In a gesture of unity competitors from nearly 10 different nations congregated together in the stadium at the Ruka World Cup competition in Finland to show their commitment to fighting climate change.
Among the group were several Olympic and World championship medalists sharing their concerns over climate change and their optimism that the U.N. can reach a substantial legally binding agreement over the next 10 days.
The general mood of the group can be described best by a quote from the Chairman of F.I.S. Cross-Country Executive Committee, Vegard Ulvang.
“At the same time as we start in Ruka and Lillehammer, the World leaders and scientists come together in Le Bourget, France for the COP 21, the UN conference on climate change. We can just hope that there will be taken new small steps in the global goal of cutting our common CO2 emissions that is so necessary for our future winters. But we do also, all of us, have a personal responsibility to do whatever we can to save our future winters, both lifestyle wise as well as by choosing and branding the necessary new and sustainable technology.”
Scandinavian skiers were well represented. In an area of the World where winter sports are vital to the framework of their communities, hopes are high they will see big change in the years to come.
"I hope in Paris world leaders can agree on a plan for a sustainable environment that makes it possible for kids in the future to go cross-country skiing.”
-Charlotte Kalla (Sweden), 2xOlympic Gold medalists
Top sprinter Erik Brandsdal shared similar concern that if action were not taken it would have a negative impact on Norwegian society.
"Let's stop climate change so that future generations can go skiing and have the same opportunities as us"
-Erik Brandsdal (Norway)
Many of the athletes believed it was their responsibility to speak up and rally support because they are witnessing the negative effects of warming temperatures first hand.
“It's important we stop climate change because every winter I see the drastic effects that have already occurred at our winter competition venues. Lack of snow and warm temperatures year upon year, when one imagines this on a global scale it's truly a frightening reality.”
-Bryan Fletcher (USA) Nordic Combined 2013 bronze medalist
One of the rally organizerers, Andy Newell, praised his competitors for having the courage to step forward and make their voices heard.
“It’s an important message that we show the World we are united on moving away from fossil fuels and rally support for a binding agreement at COP21. No matter what country you are from this affects us all. It’s time we put our differences aside to protect the environment and we expect the same common sense from our World Leaders.”
- Andy Newell (USA)
Native Frenchman and wax technician Jean-Pascal Laurin was inspired by the show of support and was optimistic that the meetings in his home country would yield big change. “le destin est entre nos main!” he exclaimed. Destiny is in our hands!