Moving from talks to action: Youth leading Climate Action
Meeting the youth at COP25 in Madrid
Looking back at everything that happened in the last year, one thing is certain: the youth has won some amazing battles in raising awareness and stressing the need to take climate action urgently. “Each of your individual voice counts” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the youth at COP25 in Madrid. Fighting the climate crisis requires every single efforts, she explained, encouraging the young activists to engage with their community as well as with the private sector.
Science has told us that we need to strive for 1.5 degree by the end of the century. By 2050, we have to reach net zero carbon emissions. But for 25 years of COP meetings, “we have been struggling to raise awareness about the need to urgently act to fight climate change” admits Patricia Espinosa. “Now the main goal for this year’s conference is ambition” she added, stressing the need to increase our commitments towards the goals under the Paris Agreement.
During a discussion with youth organisations in Madrid, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC asked the youth for help in educating people around the world about what it means to be more sustainable and to go away from a system that is turned towards consumption. “For every decision we make in our life, we need to think about the consequences of that decision” she said.
All across the world, youth have already been fighting climate change and asking their government to raise their climate ambition. Here, at COP25 in Madrid, they ask to be included in the political decision. Not only because their future is at stake, but because they are agents of change. “Youth have innovative ideas but they don’t have enough financial support to implement solutions in the fight against climate change,” said Irfan Ullah from Pakistan. Irfan stresses the need for capacity building to support the youth and youth organisations working on climate action. For Juan Jose Martin, a young activist from Chile, the youth need to be invited at the negociations table. “We’re not only here to point fingers and accuse our leaders, we are here to bring solutions” continued Seyifunmi Adebote, a young environmentalist from Nigeria and Coordinator or the International Climate Change Development Initiative.
“A year ago, at COP25 in Katowice, I learned that our planet is heading straight towards a catastrophe,” explains Ms. Zuzanna Borowska, an 18 year old activist from Poland. Zuzanna is the founder of LCOY Poland, an organisation that was created to gather young people from Poland and abroad and give them an opportunity to meet, talk and broaden their knowledge about the climate crisis. « We are a generation of idealists, a generation of believers. We believe in our ability to stop climate change. But we all know that we can only achieve it if we act together.” Zuzanna’s main mission is youth empowerment, capacity-building and raising awareness. “We want to stress the urgent need for establishing specific ideas and solutions. Conversation is important, but it is the action we strive for.” The young activist aims to contribute to bring the whole youth climate movement together and encouraging its members to work towards a better world. “On behalf of the leaders of tomorrow, I ask the leader of today, to act now,” she added.
“Our presence here is essential”, said Komal Kumar a Fijian youth climate activist. As her country started to bear the increasing burden of a warming climate, Komal realized she could no longer turn a blind eye to the issue, and started to get involved in climate activism. Komal works with Alliance for Future Generations Fiji, a growing youth network organizing events and projects with local communities to improve landscapes and education on climate across the country. “Fiji has some of the most beautiful islands you could ever visit, with white sandy beaches, tropical forests, waterfalls and mountains. But with the effects of climate change, we might not have them for long: coastal areas are being eroded, coral reefs are slowly dying, and cyclones and flooding are causing more damage than ever before.”
The youth, in Fiji and all around the world, have been amplifying the collective voices of their communities. When they speak up and share their stories of daily challenges and climate resilience, they are contributing to raise awareness for climate action. “Young people can make a difference but only if we’re included before it’s too late,” she concluded.
Article by Anne-Sophie Garrigou, Editor-in-Chief