Article / 06 Nov, 2017
Bonn Kids Sing and Act for the Planet at UN Climate Conference

UN Climate Change News, Bonn, Nov 6 – “We are the ones that will be carrying the whale!”

Alex meant proudly that he and his friends would be carrying a big cloth and paper whale at the opening of today’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn as symbols of all life on earth which is being harmed by climate change and pollution.

But it’s also true that the assembled delegates in the hall from around the world must act further, faster, together now to ensure that these 250 children who came to sing and perform so well for them have a truly sustainable future ahead, without the heavy burden of dangerous climate change.

Students aged eight to eleven from Bonn International School paraded through the aisles in animal costumes as songwriter Bernadette LaHengst and the Children and Youth Choir of Bonn Theater sang “I’m an Island” accompanied by parts of Bonn’s renowned Beethoven Orchestra.

Children from Bonn International School parading in plenary at COP23 opening ceremony

The song is a passionate appeal to everyone to take stronger action against climate change and to show solidarity with the small islands that are suffering first and worst from extreme weather. Because if it is not dealt with, then the whole world will suffer worse. The song and performance is part of Theatre Bonn’s annual Save the World festival under the direction of the Theatre’s Nicola Bramkamp. They sang:

“Fiji, Maldives, Seychelles, Tegua, Caribbean, Tuvalu and Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, the whole wide world is an island.”

Behind the Scenes Work and Anticipation

There was a bubble of anticipation behind the scenes as everyone prepared for the big event.

“The costumes feel a little bit weird,” said Rune, aged nine, fiddling with his turquoise-colored leotard prior to the opening ceremony’s start. He was a little bit nervous, and very excited to be performing in front of people from so many different countries.

 “We are the ones that will be carrying the whale,” his friend Alex added, with Ben pitching in that he was looking forward to the “fun.”

Students from Bonn International School before their performance in COP23 opening ceremony
Ben, Alex and Rune from Bonn International School getting warmed up for their performance

“A lot of preparation went into this, even though the actual performance is only two minutes,” said Agniezka Boud of Bonn International School. “We had to decide on and then design the costumes, plus the logistics of getting all the kids on buses, and getting them through security and then dressed”, she said, adding that it was great for the school to participate as diversity and sustainability were integral parts of the school’s curriculum..

Children from Bonn International School prepare for performance in COP23 opening ceremony
Getting ready to carry a mock-up whale through the plenary: children from Bonn International School

Playful but serious call for urgent climate action

While Rune, Alex and David were still getting ready, Emma and Cameron, aged 13, wearing blue pants and shirts, were already seated on the balcony, whispering excitedly as delegates started entering the plenary. Together with the other around 120 children from the children and youth choir of the Theater Bonn, they had rehearsed the song since June. It was quite a change from their usual repertoire of classic music, said the choir’s musical director Ekaterina Klewitz, explaining that pop music required different singing techniques.

The Children and Youth Choir of Theater Bonn during performance at COP23 opening ceremony
Performing pop music with as much ease as classical music: Children and Youth Choir of Theater Bonn

 As COP23 was officially opened, children holding banners and chanting “Save the world!” started parading through the plenary hall, reminding delegates of the urgency to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, if they are to meet the goal of their own Paris Climate Change Agreement – which is to stop warming going too high.

These lines resounded through the plenary, as Rune, Alex, Ben and their schoolmates carrying a whale imitation or dressed up in animal costumes paraded among the delegates and in front of the podium from which UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, German environment minister Barbara Hendricks, Bonn mayor Ashok Sridharan, Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama and Morocco’s foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar  were looking on.

Emma and Cameron from the Theater Bonn's Children and Youth Choir
Excited about their "unique experience": Choir singers Emma and Cameron

“It was really exciting to be singing in front of the whole world,” said Emma, aged 13, with her friend Cameron adding: “Singing in front of so many people, that really was a unique experience!”