Young people and the climate crisis: partecipation opportunities in the crucial year for climate action
By Giulia Persico, School Project Coordinator
The generation that will suffer the greatest consequences of the climate crisis, the last able to win it. Young people are in a critical position with respect to climate change: they are the ones who will have to live more with its effects, but also who currently have the least decision-making power and their voices are often marginalized in the political process. Now the strikes and the manifestations are no longer enough and young people from all over the World demand to have a voice, they want to participate in those tables where the fate of the world is decided, they ask for confrontation with the system in order to change it.
With this spirit of inclusion of young people in decision-making processes, the Youth4climate event will bring 400 girls and boys from all over the world to Milan from 29 to 30 September to discuss the most important issues related to climate change, to find common solutions to be reported in national and international contexts. Proposed during COP25 in Madrid by former Minister of the Environment Sergio Costa, Youth4Climate is the result of a long preparatory process (see the nine virtual events of Youth4ClimateLive Series) that began during the pandemic. The young delegates divided into groups and sub-groups will discuss climate ambition, sustainable recovery after the pandemic, involvement of non-state actors and a more aware of climate challenges society. During the third day, has been organized a direct dialogue between young people and ministers participating in PreCOP26, a closed-door conference in which delegates from 50 countries will discuss the most urgent issues to be solved before COP26 in Glasgow. The PreCOP will be held immediately following Youth4Climate and will end on October 2nd. The goal of Youth4climate is, therefore, to make young people truly protagonists, to lead decision-makers to take concrete action for the climate and to formulate concrete proposals and influence the response of the forums for discussion and decisions relating to climate change.
Youth4Climate is therefore an extra appointment, an exceptional event, which integrates existing processes. The Constituent YOUNGO (Youth-NGO) within the UNFCCC, the youth group recognized by the Framework Convention on Climate Change which brings together young people aged 16 to 35 and non-governmental organizations that combine climate and youth issues, since 2005 meet in the same place and before the start of the COP negotiations. The COYs, the Conferences of Youth are real negotiating moments developed through a bottom-up process, where everything is managed by young people with the help and support of the UNFCCC. In this historical period in which the pandemic threatens inclusiveness and participation in negotiations, especially in the countries of the southern hemisphere, the COY’ organizers are making an incredible effort to bring at least two delegates per country to Glasgow. There will be discussed a Global Youth Statement, a political declaration resulting from the suggestions collected during the year from all over the world, which will be forwarded to the negotiators of the UNFCCC and will represent the official voice of youth during the COP – the proposals and contents that they will emerge from Youth4climate, in fact, they will inform the works of the preCOP26, not directly of the COP. Furthermore, the COY process is self-managed from below with respect to the institutional organization of the Youth4climate. Great efforts are put in place to assure at least two representatives from all over the World, considering that the participation to the COY is self funded, and the COY team is struggling to help the delegates to assure their participation.
Thanks to the work of the YOUNGO Constituency, young people have therefore for years been able to participate in negotiations on the climate, influencing it. Through YOUNGO, in 2015 the principle of intergenerational equity was included in the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, thanks also to the contribution of the Italian Climate Network. This goal implies that all the decisions that will be taken for the implementation of this Agreement will have to take into account not only the principles of equity between countries but also between generations so that the future ones can take advantage of the same type of natural resources and services that we can benefit from today.
The work of the next COY, as mentioned, will be the conclusion of a global process structured in many national, self-organized Local COYs. In the Italian 2021 edition, which was held online from 20 to 26 September and to which ICN has contributed as a supporter, the focus was on the challenges of the transition (agri-food, economic, energy and socio-cultural) to be addressed in the next 10 years to stay within the + 1.5 ° C temperature rise limit compared to pre-industrial levels.
Negotiations, compromises, declarations are crucial, but more importantly, in a historical moment when the causes and solutions to climate change are well known and time is running out, it is to act concretely. The COP25 motto was “it is time to act” and yet in two years very little has changed in terms of concrete results. Another key concept is participation. At a time when the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and aggravated the already compromised situations, especially in the global South, ensuring a voice for young people, especially those who are already more critically affected by the effects of climate change, will be a central issue of the next COP.
You are reading this ICN COP Bulletin article is part of the EC DEAR SPARK project. ICN monitors negotiations and reports what is happening in Italian and English, on our website and on social channels, as part of a pan-European consortium of over 20 non-profit organizations committed to promoting climate awareness with particular attention to the role of young people and issues related to international cooperation and gender policies.