Engage young people more in fight against climate change

Young people in local settings are still significantly left behind in the fight for climate justice. [iStockphoto]

As curtains fell on COP27 in Egypt last year, it was evident that young people's voices can no longer be ignored in the quest for climate justice.

For the first time, a youth-led climate forum was scheduled to allow young people to engage and share their perspectives across the climate agenda. The youths shared the Global Youth Statement on climate change with the global leaders, representing up to 149 of nations that form part of the United Nations Climate Diplomacy.

Nancy Nduta, one of our climate justice advocates mentored under Plan International's She Leads project, gave a presentation at COP27 on how the project is empowering her and young people in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi, to mitigate climate change.

Through She Leads project, the 25-year-old engages, with other unemployed young people, in clean-up exercises and also provides communities with clean, affordable energy in the form of organic briquettes, mostly used as an alternative to wood charcoal. These activities aim at creating greener communities in Mathare.

Briquettes are more sustainable and energy-efficient alternatives to charcoal that help to reduce pollution and deforestation. While most households in informal settlements mainly use charcoal for cooking, use of briquettes reduces household cooking energy expenditure by an estimated 70 per cent if they produce them on their own, and 30 per cent if purchased from external sources.

COP27 gave Ms Nduta and other young people the avenue to showcase their initiatives in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the extent to which their role is actually recognised globally, regionally, nationally and within the local settings.

Looking beyond COP27, the need to facilitate youth engagement with national leaders and duty bearers on climate change can longer be ignored. With a global estimate of 1.8 million people aged between 10 to 24 years, the largest youth generation ever in history, the young people have a critical role to play to reduce climate change impact in their countries for generations to come.

For a long time, the impact of climate change has significantly affected young people, children and women, who are extremely vulnerable to climate disasters including the drought being experienced in over 20 counties in Kenya today. These, coupled with the persistent high levels of unemployment, poverty and closure of schools, therefore calls for global leaders, national and county leaders to scale up financial support for young people in communities that experience loss and damage from climate disasters.

Further, it is time for governments, development partners and relevant stakeholders to invest in and support young climate justice activists to be included in decision-making on matters climate change.

While appreciating the strides realised in youth engagement at the COP27, young people in local settings are still significantly left behind in the fight for climate justice.

-Mr Magero is the Youth Empowerment and Employability Advisor, Plan International-Kenya