This is a dedicated article on inclusive engagement of intersectional youth voices in climate ambition. This article is a part of the #Youth4ClimateLive Educational Toolkit.
Across the globe, existing inequalities are being exacerbated by climate change and this can leave certain age groups, regions, professions and genders particularly vulnerable to its effects. According to the World Bank Group’s report on Poverty and Shared Prosperity, four out of five people below the poverty line live in rural areas, half of the world’s poor are children, and women represent a majority of the poor in most regions. The report estimates that between 68 and 132 million more people could be pushed into poverty by 2030 due to climate impacts.
People from Vulnerable Communities and with marginalized identities—those who have been disadvantaged socioeconomically by gender, racial, or ethnic inequities, and those in vocations and geographic locations that are directly linked to the health of ecosystems—have a heightened sensitivity and greater risk to the effects of climate change. It’s our collective responsibility to amplify the voices of those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and work proactively with them to reverse the harmful trends we’re seeing around the world.
According to evaluations from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women account for about seventy percent of the world’s farmers, meaning they will face the lion’s share of the challenges despite being early adopters of many new agricultural techniques, first responders in crises, entrepreneurs of green energy and decision-makers at home. Building a sustainable future will entail empowering women and young girls, as enshrined in SDG 5, by harnessing the knowledge, skills and leadership of women, including on climate action.
In Episode 5 of #Youth4ClimateLive, “Driving Empowerment: Protecting the Most Vulnerable”, we heard from youth leaders from vulnerable areas about how they are empowering and protecting their communities. All of the speakers were women, and Fatou Jeng’s work with women farmers in The Gambia demonstrates what climate education, conservation, and tree planting can do to help women and young girls harness their leadership and support their communities.
Climate change further exacerbates the situation of people living in fragile settings, countries affected by conflict and those living in refugee camps, informal settlements, internally displaced and migrants. For young people who belong to these groups, the situation poses additional layers of challenges because of lack of access to basic services. Given the profound effects that security and climate change have on the present and future well-being of young people—and the tendency of climate change to amplify security concerns—the interlinkages between these issues must be recognized and addressed. Agricultural workers, including those who are young people and women, are also extremely vulnerable to climate change. Changes in environmental conditions due to rising temperatures are already resulting in severe droughts and heat waves, water scarcity and major soil damage, with increased desertification risks in many areas of the world while island communities are vulnerable to increased storm risk and rising sea levels.
In the #Youth4ClimateLive Episode 1 Series Launch, youth leader Selina Leem joined us to explain how her community in the Marshall Islands experiences climate change. Selina has been a vocal advocate for climate ambition since the age of 18 when she spoke at COP21. In Episode 3: Driving Youth Action, Ernest Gibson from Fiji highlighted the importance of meaningful youth engagement at all levels of decision making. Louise Mabulo from Episode 5 is a chef, farmer and entrepreneur working to revolutionize food systems in the Philippines by building back better, through agroforests and sustainable farming. She spoke to the value of the culturally-responsive engagement of farmers, removing the stigma and elevating this important role in society.
"When the youth are involved deliberately and meaningfully, the conversation changes entirely, recognizing the nexus between generations."
--Ernest Gibson, Member of the UN Secretary-General's Youth Advisory Group
It’s important to discuss how policymakers can work to better include marginalized communities throughout the decision-making process, particularly young people from different vulnerable groups around the world, and through that process foster climate education, training and awareness to build more sustainable and resilient communities.
During Episode 3: Driving Youth Action, Jayathma Wickramanayake discussed the importance of having youth participation institutionally mandated in order to engage young people for their expertise and in the decision-making process. She also stressed the importance of accountability and meaningfully engaging young people rather than simply adding them to a one-off event. This entails real follow-up, circling back with youth who have been included in decision-making to let them know how and why their ideas are or are not being incorporated and integrated into future policies.
Equitable inclusivity also necessitates adequate capacity building. In Episode 5, we learned about how Sophia Kianni, founder and executive director of Climate Cardinals, is creating a more inclusive climate movement through culturally responsive climate education. Her organization brings together youth volunteers to translate important climate education materials into over 100 languages, increasing access to information that is key to fostering climate literacy.
Banner image courtesy of Sasin Tipchai, Pixabay.
Learn More: How are vulnerable communities experiencing climate change? How are they responding?
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Read: Climate change can force vulnerable communities to migrate. Meet the Human Faces of Climate Migration in this World Bank Group Groundswell Report
Explore: Follow this useful infographic to learn about Breaking the Link Between Extreme Weather and Extreme Poverty
Read: In its fifth assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that: “People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change.” Learn more about the findings in the report.
Read: Considerations regarding vulnerable groups,communities and ecosystems in the context of the national adaptation plans - This report from our partners at UNFCCC is a great way for university students to understand vulnerable communities.
Watch: Learn more about vulnerable communities by watching films at the Indigenous Voices on Climate Change Film Festival
Watch: Learn more about the environmental justice movement by watching ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE FILMS from the NAACP
Read: Learn about the connection between Air pollution and child health: prescribing clean air from the the World Health Organization
Learn More: Who are some of the youth leaders from vulnerable communities?
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Read: 7 Indigenous Activists that you should know about.
Watch: Selina Leem | This is Our Land | Marshall Islands on why her vulnerable community is so important.
Explore: Louise Mabulo is a chef, farmer and entrepreneur who is working to revolutionize food systems in the Philippines by building back better, through agroforests and sustainable farming. For more, follow her on Twitter.
Explore: Fatou Jeng is a youth climate activist from Gambia who is focused on gender and climate education, conservation, and tree planting. She founded Clean Earth Gambia and the One Trillion Trees Campaign.
How can we ensure a more inclusive climate movement?
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Explore: Sophia Kianni is a Iranian American youth climate activist who works as a communications strategist and advocate for sustainable fashion. She is also the founder and executive director of Climate Cardinals, a global movement for culturally responsive climate education across the globe.
Read: Inclusivity must be the basis of SDG2030 in this article from Connect4Climate, we learn about how climate education with Syrian Refugees in Lebanon is creating a more inclusive climate movement.
Read: 'Like I wasn't there': climate activist Vanessa Nakate on being erased from a movement - Prominent Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate was cropped a photo with white climate activists in Davos - this now infamous display of exclusion did exactly the opposite - the push-back elevated the conversation about Vanessa and her activism. In 4 Young Climate Activists on Intersectionality in Climate Justice, Fighting From Home, and More you can hear from Vanessa and other youth activists on the importance of intersectionality in the climate movement.