Climate change campaigners have identified the conscious inclusion of young people in the decision-making process as a key requirement to unlock the green transition plan.
The activists, while expressing their observations during a youth consultation on Climate Change and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) organised on Tuesday, September 21, 2021 by the United Kingdom and Italy in Abuja, unanimously recognised the need to build the capacity of adolescents to understand their role and take honest actions that reduce the inimical impact of climate change on livelihood sources.
With an estimated population of over 86 million youths across Nigeria, the participants described the realisation of the green economic initiative as a mere mirage without the proper integration of this demography into climate planning processes.
Comparing this number with the population size of Germany, Turkey, Australia, and the United Kingdom, they argued that the place of young people in achieving the climate objective is non-negotiable.
For them, it is time to depart from the conventional expression of the word “youth consultation” and start to think of how to put in place measures that ensure that young people play a more “participatory” role in the development and implementation of economic activities that promote the green transition agenda.
The stakes are high as the world prepares for the next Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021. Young people are encouraged to be courageous and take over their position in the global climate conversation.
As part of mindful efforts to prepare these youngsters to properly demand their position at COP26, the UK and Italian government through a partnership agreement have outlined series of preparatory activities to help them channel this power effectively.
One of the core aims of this collaboration is to bring over 400 young people across the world together to forge a declaration that will drive climate ambition and be shared with Ministers ahead of the conference.
Last year, the UK Government established the Civil Society and Youth Advisory Council to help shape COP26. The sixteenth Conference of Youth or COY16 is also another initiative that COP26 intends to use to give young people a voice.
Early this month the British Council, through its climate Connection programme, unveiled the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action – a call for action from over 8, 000 young people from 23 countries, directly addressing leaders attending COP26..
At COP26, November 5 has been dedicated exclusively to the voices of young people and to demonstrate the crucial role of public empowerment and education in climate action.
Although the United Nations Synthesis report released on September 17 showed some verifiable reduction in greenhouse gas emission over time, the science also underlines the urgent need for nations to redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond 1.5 degrees.
Countries must halve global emissions by 2030 to achieve the 1.5 targets, and that means taking decisions and actions now that will drive down emissions throughout the next decade. And this is why the role of young people is crucial at COP26, bringing them together as one to build a greener, more inclusive, and sustainable future that protects humanity and nature from the effects of climate change.
To reach this future, according to Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change & Energy, West Africa, it requires getting the finance in place to invest in climate action.
The climate finance expert, who believes in the immense power of young people to champion climate action, highlighted that this means strengthening collaboration locally, nationally, as well as internationally.
“Addressing the climate crisis requires all of us to be advocates and catalysts for change,” Melbourne submitted.
Many young climate change campaigners who were present at the parley gave insights on their perspectives on Road to COP26. A panel session was also organised with a focus on Joining Forces: Role of youth in the meaningful implementation of Nigeria’s NDC to hear and gather their thoughts directly.
Olumide Idowu, a member of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) and Nigeria’s COP25 youth delegate, commended the UK and Italian government for the collaboration which he said would help the youths to first meet before the main event and plan together.
“For me, that is one of the ways of getting the youths better prepared for the main negotiation,” he said.
The primary expectations from these people are to reduce gas flaring, seek climate finance, as well as promote energy transition. Therefore, Idowu who is popularly known as “Mr. Climate”, believes the young people must understand the language of the NDC when it is talking about mitigation and adaptation, finance, and others.
For him, “it is important to know all these things to be able to add to the solution.”
Joy Egbe, one of Nigeria’s pre-COP26/Youth4Climate delegates, while sharing insight on some preparatory activities, said she has been engaging with young people across the six geo-political zones across the country to collate their ideas on the way forward before the conference.
This consultation, according to her, is part of the process to involve young people in climate change issues to make a meaningful impact.
In the end, one thing was clear – and that is the urgent need to unite and save the world.
By Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja