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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Why youth are key to accelerate innovative climate technologies

Youth have a central role of in driving innovative climate technologies to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This was the key focus and conclusion of a recent event held at EXPO 2020 Dubai.

Jayathma Wickramanayake
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

Increasing extreme weather events worldwide such as heatwaves, hurricanes and wildfires as a result of climate change underline the crucial importance of innovative adaptation technologies.

Many young people are growing up in parts of the world where the effects of climate change will hit hardest. An increasing number are leading climate adaptation efforts in their communities and regions, developing innovative solutions to adapt to climate impacts.

Examples of adaptation technologies were presented at a conference of the Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Community (G-STIC). Adaptation technologies include: flood safeguards; more resilient crops; water purification and recycling; and weather forecasting technologies that simulate upcoming adverse weather conditions. Such technologies can make a critical, even life-saving difference in terms of providing adequate early warning for affected areas.

Suil Kang, Chief Supervisor, International Environmental Research Institute (IERI), highlighted the importance of involving youth in technology development and deployment. “Their tireless effort to tackle challenges in climate change through creative ideas and innovative technologies will make an important contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Stephen Minas, Chair of the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC), which co-organised the event together with the UNFCCC youth constituency YOUNGO, said: “We are moving into the space where youth are not only observers, but are now participants within climate technology governance. Youth have the most significant stake in the future and are also integral for bringing solutions and positive change.”

The TEC Chair also highlighted the decision taken at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP26 to bring youth to the forefront of climate technology with a dedicated seat on the Advisory Board of the UNFCCC’s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN).

Panellists at the event discussed and showcased how to motivate and enable young innovators to come up with technology solutions that can be developed and scaled up. Two main areas identified as requiring attention are access to finance and addressing existing knowledge gaps.

Accessing adequate finance

Claudia Lasprilla Pina from the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) highlighted various funding windows under the AFB innovation facility to reach young people. One is the Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA), a small grant programme which aims to foster innovation in climate change adaptation in developing countries by providing online training that enables young innovators to test and pilot their ideas.

The AFCIA programme receives technical assistance from the CTCN, which has actively engaged young people in its work over the last few years with the goal of giving them a platform to share their insights and experience with climate change technologies.

One example was the launch of the Youth Climate Innovation Labs in AfricaAsia-Pacific and Latin America, which provided young people with training and tools to develop solutions to various climate change challenges. 

Addressing knowledge gaps

Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development, shared an example from Bangladesh in closing knowledge gaps. “Gobeshona” is a knowledge-sharing platform for climate change research in Bangladesh. Every university in the country has an environment club or climate change group and as part of Gobeshona’s activities, students with knowledge of climate change, particularly adaptation, reach out to young people outside universities to raise awareness.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) has also been focusing on youth and adaptation. Daria Chekalskaia, Intern at the CIF’s Youth Engagement Programme, shared her experience in the development of a Youth Engagement Strategy (YES), a core aim of which is to support local youth climate resilience projects.

She showcased some initiatives supported by the CIF, including a project to develop an application called “act to adapt” that supports school students in assessing the potential impact of hurricanes on their houses.

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