“We Are Action” – the slogan echoed at the Young and Future Generations Day celebration at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. True to those words, young climate advocates from around the globe were working tirelessly at the conference to ensure just and robust climate actions.
I had the privilege of attending the event. Numerous delegates delivered speeches at the conference, where the speakers recognized the impact of the youth movement in driving climate action and ensuring accountability from the decision makers. However, the sentiment that seemed to resonate most across youth groups in attendance was of inaction on the part of global leaders.
At COP25 and Around the Globe, Emerging Youth Leadership
At COP25 and around the world, young people have been advocating for a just transition to a 100% clean economy, inclusive decision making, robust policies, capacity building and structured financial support for youth engagement – action that, so far, global leaders have not delivered.
By mobilizing climate movements in various forms around the globe, youth activists are demonstrating leadership. They have shown remarkable solidarity in organizing and voicing their opinions. And the young climate advocates at COP25 reflected that leadership. Representing diverse ethnicities and expertise, the youth leaders on hand took an active part in all areas of climate action under discussion – adaptation, resilience, mitigation. They highlighted the nuances of youth perspective and discussed topics such as climate finance, energy, environment, indigenous knowledge, education, local action, and so on. Most importantly, the youth voices were honest, bold and untouched by the restrictive bureaucracies of the system.
The youth organizations and advocates at COP worked through formal channels to check the international negotiations and national commitments for climate goals. YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of UNFCCC, works with youth volunteers throughout the year to build capacity of youth groups, collaborate with UN bodies and NGOs to ensure active youth representation at international forums.
Local Conference of Youth (LCOY), a formal process to empower youth and youth organizations at local and regional levels, was set up in 2017 within YOUNGO. This year, 27 LCOYs were organized across five continents with 1000-plus participants, all leading up to the Conference of Youth (COY) held on Dec. 5 in Madrid. More than 400 young people from 85 countries participated at COY to share their ideas and propose climate solutions under thematic working groups that were then submitted to UNFCCC.
From grassroots to formal channels, proactive youth action has done so much to increase demand for global climate action at these international meetings. Yet, our leaders are falling short on substantial inclusion of young people in the decision-making processes and have not made adequate progress for meeting the climate targets they set. They must take inspiration from the young leaders who attended, and ensure bold steps forward to prevent the injustice of the climate crisis from dominating our lifetimes. And we must continue to demand action from our leaders to make them do it.