Young people need to be much more actively involved in shaping the global response to climate change but also need and are searching for the financial means to do so – this is the key message of youth who discussed climate change at a major Youth Forum at the United Nations in New York this month.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change promotes youth participation under its "Action for Climate Empowerment" (ACE) focus, which relates to education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation.
Notably young people from developing countries are presently unable to attend UN climate change conferences due to a lack of funding, said youth representatives meeting at this year's UN Economic and Social Council’s Youth Forum. In addition, delegates called for the concerns of youth to be taken seriously as the world moves into implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement clinched last year.
“We must empower youth as leaders of climate action today, because by the time they become the leaders of tomorrow it will be too late for their generation to prevent dangerous climate change,” said Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth at the meeting.
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last year, the French government provided funding to support 12 youth attendees from the Global South, and the Netherlands invited youth to make use of the Dutch national pavilion. Timothy Damon, a focal point for the official Youth Constituency to the Climate Convention, says these are encouraging first steps, but that more is needed:
“We need the voices of those most vulnerable to climate change to be present. We also need more inclusion of youth in the negotiations themselves. Year after year I have seen many youth attendees leave too discouraged by their inability to provide input to return. More official youth delegates could change this, giving youth a real voice and restoring their hope in this process.”
Youth delegates at the Paris UN Climate Change Conference in December of last year
Delegates meeting at this year’s UN Economic and Social Council’s Youth Forum made several other key proposals for increasing youth participation at UN meetings and in other fora, including:
- ensuring that official Youth Delegates are on the delegations of all countries.
- providing financial support to cover the expenses incurred by youth volunteers working directly for the Youth Constituency at UN climate change meetings.
- establishing an annual Youth Pavilion at the annual UN climate change conferences to improve youth engagement.
- setting up a Global Challenges Youth Center in every city or local community.
- developing information and communication technology tools that map, document, evaluate and incentivize youth led climate action in a globally coordinated way.
- using music, social media, celebrities engagement and broadcast media partnerships for local and global resource mobilization in support of youth-led climate action. In New York, plans were presented for a climate change “edutainment” TV show during COP22 in support of large scale climate change public awareness raising and fundraising.
Young people in New York at a “Climate Change edutainment show”
Youth delegates plan to present their proposals to governments over the coming months, whilst the UN Climate Convention conducts a review of its commitments to increase the participation of youth and civil society in its work. Concrete proposals could then be given the green light at the Convention’s Conference of the Parties November in Morocco.
See here for videos of the meeting in New York.