The Future Role of Youth in Climate Action

By Simone Calimberti*

Kathmandu | 24 December 2023 (IDN) – recently concluded COP 28 Dubai has announced the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. Although criticized by many activists, scientists and representatives of the most climate-vulnerable countries, the decision taken at the end of the negotiations to „change” from them has attracted almost universal attention.

These words are the result of a difficult compromise, a very watered-down version of what COP 28 was supposed to agree on: a total phase-out of fossil fuels.

It will have a final outcome called COP 28 United Arab Emirates Agreement, would it have been different if young people had engaged and meaningfully participated in the final negotiations? So far limited to official events and speeches, how would they have contributed to key moments of „behind the scenes” decision-making?

Asking such questions is important because young people, despite having an unprecedented presence in Dubai, have been left out of key consultations. These, like other binding treaties, are exclusive to the member state party United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Despite this expected, “business as usual” marginalization of young voices, perhaps the COP in Dubai will lay the groundwork for a much higher and deeper level of youth participation in future climate negotiations. Indeed, in many ways, COP 28 broke new ground in terms of youth participation.

But what will it take for such positive development to pave the way for real power in the hands of the youth?

Dubai has successfully developed a process launched during COP 26 in Glasgow to enable new levels of youth participation and engagement. Unfortunately, this effort to engage young people in climate policy decision-making, with key discussions of role Education for sustainable development And Role of learning to promote climate actionNot getting the attention it deserves.

In the former, the Emirati Presidency of COP 28 led to a permanent formation Presidency Youth Climate Champion (YCC)A new character introduced and held for the first time Shamma Al MasruiThe current Minister of Youth Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.

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Youth Climate Champion

The idea to launch a Youth Climate Champion, inspired by the advocacy practice for each COP process, is two High level championsHosting was the brainchild of the government.

What is significant about the final outcome of COP 28 is that this role is going to be institutionalized and entrenched within the UNFCCC mechanisms. Also interesting, from the perspective of finding new ways to engage and involve young people in climate discussions, COP 28 Youth Climate Delegation Program.

The initiative brought more than 100 young people, particularly from the Global South, to Dubai for COP 28, and it is commendable that the program also includes a strong capacity-building component. As with the Youth Climate Delegates project, it may be even more ambitious and transformative to envision a first step towards creating a Youth Permanent Climate Assembly within the UNFCCC official process.

Envisioning the establishment of such a mechanism, even if the idea is simple, will require a lot of effort and long negotiations: give youth a permanent voice in dealing with the most complex and urgent issue of our time.

But how do we make this exercise truly „authentic” rather than merely symbolic, ultimately merely tokenistic and without losing any of its power? Before discussing ways to make it meaningful, it is necessary to first explore ways to institutionalize it.

The COP 28 Youth Climate Delegates Program will be the first step towards becoming a permanent mechanism of the next climate COP processes. What was decided at COP 28 was only the creation of permanent youth climate champions who would often like to be the „official” ambassador and spokesperson of youth on climate matters.

Moving beyond the idea of ​​being a perpetual champion and instead about how to run a structured assembly. YungoThe UNFCCC's official Children and Youth Constituency, it was instrumental in developing the COP 28 Youth Climate Delegation Program.

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A staircase

Throughout the preparations for the next COP 29 in Azerbaijan in 2024, YOUNGO, together with the UNFCCC Secretariat, United Nations Office on YouthThe Azerbaijan Presidency may come up with a consultative process that will define options for institutionalizing the Youth Climate Delegates Program, a step toward creating a Youth Permanent Assembly.

It is unrealistic to imagine that, with the right political will, a new institution could be set up for COP 30 in Brazil in 2025. The Assembly may meet three times a year, at least twice in person, including during the official COP negotiations in November of each year.

Achieving this goal will already, on many levels, be a game changer for development in the fight against climate warming, given the progressive and courageous positions of the youth. But how do we replace this new entity with real and tangible power? This is probably the most difficult and complex aspect.

Only youth-led and empowered discussions can determine this important and essential aspect, but here are some ideas on how such empowerment can be implemented. One of the main goals of the Assembly is to ensure that some of its representatives, elected by consensus, participate fully in the COP negotiations, from which they are now excluded.

Ultimately, the Assembly will have real power only if the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are granted the same powers as the parties to the Convention.

This means that it not only entrusts it with resources to carry out its own autonomous discussions, but also equips this new mechanism with the power to participate with equal powers of governments in the discussion of final COP outcome documents.

As difficult as it is to imagine such a development, a real advance in the way international negotiations are designed and negotiated, the idea of ​​entrusting delegates to the proposed Permanent Youth Climate Forum with equal powers to states has long been in the works.

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Biodiversity conservation

Empowerment of this mechanism will also be of great importance in the following COP negotiations on biodiversity conservation and protection. UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Let us not forget that the recently concluded COP28 in Dubai put biodiversity on the climate agenda. In fact, the final outcome document of COP 28 is also substantially comprehensive and comprehensive Notes and links For biodiversity.

Additionally, COP28 Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and PeopleRatified by 18 countries, with another declaration, The COP 28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food and Climate ActionRecognized by 159 countries, Critical Bridges can bring climate and biodiversity agendas closer together.

That is why the Legislature can be officially designated as The Next Generation Climate & Biodiversity ConsortiumYounger generations should be represented in biodiversity negotiations. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)..

Establishing it requires a lot of determination and dedication The Next Generation Climate & Biodiversity Consortium. Governments, except perhaps a few, strongly reject the idea.

Yet forums like YOUNGO and well-known climate activists, together with the media, can play a major role in changing their minds and building a global consensus in the international community on why a powerful youth-led assembly on climate and biodiversity is needed. .

After all, innovative and exciting ideas are hard to accept at the beginning and a task may seem impossible, but gradually, take shape and gain consensus.

Because biodiversity and climate crises are so existential, it is worth the effort to try to establish a next-generation climate and biodiversity forum. [IDN-InDepthNews]

* Simone Calimberti, based in Kathmandu, is co-founder of ENGAGE and The Good Leadership. He writes on the UN, youth, volunteerism, regional integration and human rights reform in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo credit: International Youth Climate Representative Project

IDN is the flagship agency of the non-profit organization International Press Syndicate.

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