Beyond Words: Climate Actions for a Green Economy

Part 1 - Youth take charge of their future

Effective climate action by multiple non-state actors, be they businesses, cities or regions, could make significant contributions to narrowing the global emissions gap, adapting to climate change, and demonstrating to governments that higher ambition is desirable and doable. Going beyond words, this 5-part series on climate actions for a green economy shows how these actors are, in fact, hard at work and delivering results. By Jovin Hurry

They represent more than half of the world’s population, they want to be heard and they are out there in the trenches.

Young people are indeed key players in reaching innovative and ambitious solutions to climate change - and many have stepped up in the game. Often not in the media limelight, safe in once-in-a-while international events, young leaders have been putting forth their power and participation.

Scores of young people diligently engage in youth-led side events, workshops, and activities taking place throughout international meetings, with a continuous stream of creative actions that prove their mettle.

They’ve also moved to high gear to engage in intergenerational inquiry discussions, as was the case last November 2017 at the headquarters of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Germany itself. During that  ‘Young and Future Generations Day’, decision-makers from business and the government together with young leaders discussed the key role that the youth play in implementing climate action.

While the youth has been chatting with decision-makers for decades, the subtle shift has been that now the latter are leaning forward more, putting the palm behind their ear, to learn from the youth on many aspects, e.g. their millennial lifestyles, their grip on social media and technologies, and their peer influence for catalysing actions.

The youth have gone beyond simply presenting the results of their youth conferences and their inspiring youth-led initiatives, though important. They’ve geared up to be involved in High-Level Youth Briefings. These briefings are organised throughout international UN gatherings with key figures from the UNFCCC process, informing the youth delegates on the negotiations and responding to their questions.

In these discussions, the youth demonstrate their engagement level, e.g. on how, in the run-up to the United Nation’s climate summit 2017, the 13th Conference of Youth welcomed more than 1000 participants and 650 programme contributors, international and regional Youth NGOs and civil society actors from 114 countries.  This variety of individual contributions over 225 events took place under the slogan “Talanoa Mada – Youth Accelerating Climate Action”.

Talanoa Mada – Youth Accelerating Climate Action combines one of the most important ambitions of young climate activists with a Fijian term that carries its very own spirit. Talanoa Mada (pronounced ‘Talanoa Manda’) describes a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. Through unconstrained mutual storytelling, this process builds up empathy and can foster decision-making for the collective good.

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This process of process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue by the youths of highly diverse backgrounds has become ever so important in the current time of increased suspicion, prejudice and hate that has been headlining the news day in day out.

Pushing for this participatory process for climate action, the Young European Leadership, an international nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering young leaders and future decision makers from Europe and beyond, has been building the young talent pool to make the climate action possible.

It has been recruiting and training the European Union delegations to the official young G7/G20 outreach programs, and participating in a multitude of international conferences to give young people the opportunity to present their concerns and provide critical as well as innovative policy input. It has been promoting new forms of engagement and directly connecting aspiring leaders with senior decision makers.

In these higher levels of engagement, the youth now more clearly than in previous years highlight issues, share thoughts and opinions, discuss where they see priority challenges, how realistic practical solutions could look like, and what they can expect from each other in this joint effort of accelerating climate action.

One of the new ways issues get highlighted is through the Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change. Mr. Younes Lamsaoui, from Morocco, and Mr. Adarsh Prathap, India, were chosen out of 247 videos submitted from 94 countries as the 2017 winners for taking decisive climate action.

The video by Younes, titled Turning Green highlights how Marrakesh, the “red city” in Morocco, is responding to the challenges of climate change and how he is contributing to this transition. As a young primary school teacher, he is educating the next generation on how to help make their city greener and live sustainably.

Adarsh’s video, Let Mangroves Recover, underlines the importance of mangroves and shows how their preservation can save thousands of lives. His video sends a strong message on the significance of this ecosystem for the region for saving its vulnerable coastline.  

For this, the youth collaborated with a number of partners to make possible the dissemination of their strong views, e.g. here with the UNFCCC’s Action for Climate Empowerment Initiative, the UNDP GEF-Small Grants Programme, Connect4Climate, Television for the Environment (tve), and the BNP Paribas Foundation.

With the torrent of news and information around, with the louder voices drowning the softer and sometimes more pertinent ones, and with the speed at which changes are coming along, it is easy to dismiss the numerous small and big actions that the young people are involved in around the world.

The energy and creativity of the young people may be the most important currency the world may eventually have to pay for the price of the loss and damage done so far to our planet.