World’s youth highlight their key role versus climate emergency at COP28

in photo (left to right ) Arif Wibowo (ICLEI IO); Isabella de Roldao (Vice Mayor of Recife, Brazil); Marco Gervasi (European Energy Youth Network), Alina (Municipality of Sao Paulo); Richard Matey (GAYO representative/YOUNGO; Niina Ratilaine (Member of a Local Assembly: Turku City Council); Madison Hodges, Yunus Arikan, Karishma Asarpota of ICLEI World Secretariat.
in photo (left to right) Arif Wibowo of ICLEI Indonesia; Isabella de Roldao, Vice Mayor of Recife, Brazil; Marco Gervasi, European Energy Youth Network; Alina, Municipality of Sao Paulo; Richard Matey, GAYO representative/YOUNGO; Niina Ratilaine, Member of a Local Assembly: Turku City Council; Madison Hodges, Yunus Arikan, Karishma Asarpota of ICLEI World Secretariat.

“We must instigate change; the youth should be key players in molding their future instead of just being on the sidelines.”

Mr. Arif Wibowo, ICLEI Indonesia Country Manager, delivered this critical message underscoring the youth’s vital role in shaping a sustainable future and combating climate change during one of the first-ever youth stocktake sessions at COP28 in Abu Dhabi.

The 2021 Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) report by UNICEF highlighted that over one billion youth and children worldwide are currently at extremely high risk from the impacts of climate change. Hence, the youth at COP28 highlighted their desire to be involved in crucial decisions concerning their future and that of their communities with regard to the climate emergency, and its environmental, cultural, and social effects.  

ICLEI collaborated with Care About Climate Inc. and the Children and Youth International (CYI)—part of the YOUNGO Constituency—to showcase the significance of youth inclusion in climate decision-making during a COP28 session entitled “Synergizing Local, Youth and Global Stocktake: Aligning Global Policy and Local Implementation” on 8 December 2023.

Global Insight and lessons from youth programs worldwide

In Photo (left to right) Hailey Campbell of Young Climate Activist and Ahsania Almas Rusyda Aghnetta of Youth Climate Reality Leaders Indonesia.

During the panel, participating countries and organizations shared valuable lessons learned in advocating for meaningful youth participation in decision-making. 

In Indonesia and the Philippines, ICLEI is part of a network actively involving the youth in social and environmental aspects of urban development through the Safe and Sound Cities (S2Cities) programme. This initiative involves local government engagement, establishing youth innovation hubs, mapping stakeholders, and engaging the youth of Bandung, Baguio, and Naga in various efforts aimed at addressing local safety and well-being challenges.

São Paulo, Brazil, with its vibrant population of 2.5 million youth, faces a dual reality. While young individuals actively participate in public policy, a staggering one million are faced with poverty, and climate change remains a secondary concern. To change this, they are connecting gender and poverty with climate issues, focusing on food security and waste management. Called “Plan Clima,” the initiative involves music, dance, and influencers to make climate change relevant to young people and link it with job opportunities.

Turku, Finland established a youth panel climate forum in 2020. Mandating youth councils for municipal governments also proved instrumental in engaging young voices in priority sectors. Programs for young elected politicians further amplify the impact, inspiring the youth from various municipalities and regions to immerse themselves in public service.

According to the European Youth Energy Network (EYEN) which guides the youth towards green jobs, over 200,000 young Europeans are actively participating in Europe’s energy transition. Its Energy Transition Career Compass has become a vital tool in assessing youth skills for more than 150 sustainable jobs.

Youth of Bandung City participates in the S²Cities Global Convening on 28 October 2023 (ICLEI Indonesia)

Targeted at countries, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the global community, the YOUNGO developed a report presenting key recommendations to elevate youth inclusion in the climate agenda, including: 

  • Strengthen monitoring and reporting — Despite decades of youth activities, YOUNGO observes a dearth of structured data on youth inclusion. Comprehensive documentation and reporting are the groundwork for sustained and impactful action.
  • Foster trust and accountability — For maximum effectiveness, collaboration between youth and governments requires transparency. Mutual trust can be challenging, and solutions may not always be straightforward, but these are crucial for meaningful progress.
  • Institutionalize youth inclusion — While there is progress, youth involvement in climate diplomacy often lacks structure and long-term objectives. Establishing an institution with clear targets can provide a framework, preventing tokenization and youth-washing.
  • Mobilize funding and resources — Limited youth outreach and participation are often linked to insufficient funds and resources. Governments and organizations can explore innovative funding mechanisms to bolster youth inclusion.

YOUNGO, the largest children and youth constituency of the United Nations (UN), is a self-organized and entirely youth-led entity. Their mission is to ensure that the interests of the younger generation echo resoundingly in the ongoing battle against climate change, at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

YOUNGO’s approach to enhancing youth inclusion in global climate policy revolves around four key strategies (i) Awareness, knowledge and capacity building (ii) Collaboration, cooperation and network (iii) Policy, lobby and advocacy, and (iv) Youth action.

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