The fourth day of the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in Paris was dubbed “Youth and Future Generations.” Speaking at a press conference on December 3, Ahmad Alhendawi, youth envoy for the United Nations secretary general, said that the youth send an urgency in the negotiations over climate change.
“We have seen young people coming together to send a strong call to action to save our planet. What’s at stake today is the future. We need to reach this agreement, and we need it to be ambitious,” Alhendawi said.
Youth in Action
Right before COP21, the 11th Conference of Youth (COY) was held, bringing together 1,500 young people from all over the world sharing their experiences in finding solutions to climate change and engaging in different activities in their countries related to climate action.
Siamak Loni of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network believes that young people have a big role to play in finding solutions to climate change.
“The biggest revolutions in history happened because of young people,” Loni notes.
“Young people have certain qualities like creativity, energy, idealism which is good for transformative movements,” he adds. “Climate change is something that needs transformative movements. When you give young people purpose and you empower them, they are able to use these qualities to achieve something positive.”
Bitia Chavez from Peru is an example of a young person who uses her creativity, energy and idealism to address climate change. Together with her friends, she founded Sinba, a restaurant that addresses food waste by collecting and processing organic waste so it can return as nourishment for the earth. They also promote awareness and conduct educational campaigns throughout the culinary community.
Chavez and Loni both see the importance of the youth in finding solutions to climate change.
For Loni, it is important to have spaces for youth in policy and decision-making. “Advocating for solutions is one thing, and contributing to solutions is another,” he says. “It’s not just about voice but being represented, [and] having influence and being able to integrate their ideas in decisions is the key element. We do not see enough of that. Governments must have young representatives and consult young people, be able to really listen to them, bring them into the discussions.”
On the other hand, Chavez believes in acting on the ground now. “It’s important to have negotiations for policies, but it’s also important to already act now,” she mentions.
COP 21 must not fail youth
At the intergenerational inquiry hosted on December 3, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi celebrated young people and recognized the role they play at COP 21.
Figueres reminded youth to make sure they are at the center of climate action.
“Make sure that the stories you tell have you at the center,” she said. “I want you tell stories to your grandchildren not only that you were in the COP, but what you did in the COP.”
Alhendawi, for his part, said that young people’s presence at the COP is a reminder to negotiators of the urgency of the issue.
“We are here at a crossroad, and failure is not an option. Tell negotiators that they cannot afford to fail this generation and future generations. We must, we can and we will put this planet on the path of sustainability,” he said.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians also spoke at the event, making a strong statement on the importance of ambitious actions today.
“Never before have we seen an issue as unifying as climate change,” he said. “This is about my survival, my future. Each and every one of us has the power to make decisions to change to world in the future. All eyes [are] on us right now. The decisions we make today will affect generations to come. Let’s build a world we are proud to pass on to future generations.”
The issue of climate is indeed an issue of young people. This is the generation that will feel the brunt of climate change. But this is also the generation that can change the world and lead us toward a more sustainable future.
This article was originally published at Fair Observer.