Climate Action: Time to give youth a place on the table

Some of the youth who participated at the COP27 in Egypt

The year ending 2022 has certainly been one where the global community received fresh impetus to tackle the growing crisis brought about by global warming.

Kenya, has suffered the worst impacts of climate change in years, thanks to failed rain seasons over a number of years. How bad is the situation?

Close to five million people in more than 23 counties went to bed without food. Women lost capability to put food on the table for their children and family.

Young girls, especially those among the pastoralist communities had their rights as children violated and traded for food through early marriages.  

Countries in the horn of Africa and Sahel region saw close to 34 million people suffer the worst effects of drought, leading to loss of livestock in their thousands and other forms of livelihoods.

This dire situation facing humanity could be the reason why the 27th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) that took place in Egypt last month had a high number of attendees.

Interestingly, from the more than 45,000 attendees, a significant fraction were the youth who were for the very first time granted greater prominence by the UN Climate Change’s Executive Secretary.

Markedly, COP27 attempted to exemplify the examples of inclusive approach to climate action by hosting the first-ever youth-led Climate Forum and the first-of-its-kind pavilion for children and youth.

Speaking at COP27 Tasnia Ahmed from Bangladesh noted that the youth need to be at the centre of key decision-making processes.

“They should not be tokenized because they have real solutions that go beyond participation,” she said.

Judy Nyamvula, the Executive Director of the Sexual Reproductive Health Alliance underscored that the youth should be part of climate change action because they make up the biggest part of the population in Africa.

Nyamvula argued that the youth disproportionately suffer from the impacts of climate change and need to be equal shareholders in the roles and responsibilities set up by the government. Nyamvula also noted that the generations will relive the outcomes of false solutions if the governments fail to include them.

Notably, the World Leaders Summit high-level roundtable discussions highlighted that vulnerable communities that largely include the youth, need finances, resources and tools to effectively deliver climate action.

CLIMATE RESILIENT APPROACH

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2022 report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability had earlier in the year highlighted the need for inclusion of the youth, women and marginalised groups to enable a climate resilient approach towards development.

The report noted that adaptative climate actions need to advance equity within and between generations. This shows the necessity for youth inclusion.

Cathy Li, a youth advocate from the United Kingdom said governments need to urgently scale up mitigation ambition and ensure rights-based equitable implementation at the local level.

Echoing these sentiments, Nyamvula said governments need to provide climate change education for young people to understand the effects of the crisis.

YOUTH AND INNOVATIVE IDEAS

“The youth need to be granted opportunities to come up with innovative ideas to save humanity before it’s too late,” says Nyamvula.

The youth play an integral part as in development and must be included in operationalizing current policies and new funding arrangements between now and the next discussions at COP28 next year.

There is also a need to allocate proper and realistic budgets to address the crisis at community and national level.

Should government officials turn a blind eye to the youth, there is a possibility that the vulnerable youth will remain lost even though there is a “loss and damage” funding.

Finally, climate change is here and its impacts may only get worse if we do not act. It is time to allow the youth to be the quintessential catalyst for climate action.

[The writer is a communication officer at the African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)]


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