In a world grappling with dire consequences of climate change, it is evident that the youth, millennials and Generation Z, are the most powerful catalysts for change and should for take the reins of leadership in addressing the global climate crisis.
Their voices are growing louder and more resolute, and their efforts have elicited reactions as diverse as the climate itself - from widespread support to vehement opposition.
Take for instance Greta Thunberg, whose impassioned address at UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 ignited both global acclaim and social media contempt. Just recently, she was detained by German authorities as she protested the expansion of a coal mine. The voices of the young generation are rising to the forefront here in Africa, a continent deeply impacted by climate change and the quest for green growth.
This brings us to the Africa Climate Summit Forum 2023, a pivotal event with a primary mission of spearheading green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the world. However, I cannot help but raise a pertinent question, why are only a few Millennials and Gen Zs invited as speakers to shape climate dialogue?
Why are their voices not given prominence considering that they are the ones living in the reality of the effects of man’s abuse of the environment? Young people understand their future is at stake, that they are agents of change, they are innovators, and a valuable force to climate action and for these reasons, their voices should be amplified.
One of the most compelling reasons not to ignore the voices of the youth is that the long-term consequences of climate crisis will impact them. Unlike the older generations who often dominate climate discussions and policymaking, it is the young generation that stands to suffer the most from climate change.
With more years ahead of them, the young generation will be forced to grapple with severe consequences of global warming that is causing extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, water scarcity and food insecurity.
By amplifying their voices, we acknowledge the fact that it is the young generation that will shoulder the heaviest burden of our actions and inaction. Their perspective is therefore essential in shaping policies that will protect their future.
UN Secretary General António Guterres says, “My generation has largely failed until now to preserve both justice in the world and to preserve the planet. It is your generation that must make us be accountable to make sure that we don't betray the future of humankind”.
The young generation is known for its creativity and innovation, thus by giving them a platform, they get a chance to breathe new life into climate action. The youth are not intimidated to challenge conventional wisdom.
Moreover, technology has given them a louder voice to speak up on issues such as adopting sustainable agricultural practices and technologies and advocating for renewable energy sources. Millennials and Gen Zs across the world have a greater access to digital spaces which give them an instant audience.
Unlike the older generation, this generation is extremely comfortable with social media which gives them a platform to discuss the urgency of climate matters and give solutions for green growth and finance solutions. This ability to think outside the box can lead to significant strides in mitigating the effects of climate change.
In addition, the youth have boundless energy and unwavering passion to implement possible solutions. Young activists across the globe have proven their ability to mobilise peers in the climate movement.
Organisers of Africa Climate Summit must understand that the presence of young people on stage is not only symbolic, but also important.
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