UPDATE: The #Youth4Climate Manifesto is now officially complete. Read the document in its entirety here.
Some 400 young climate leaders from all over the world gathered in Milan from September 28-30 to brainstorm much-needed solutions in four key thematic areas. What follows is a concise overview of the key messages adopted by delegates at the Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition Summit, which were presented to ministers attending the Pre-COP26 conference. The full document will remain open for comments from the delegates until October 25th to ensure that their recommendations will inform COP26 when it convenes in Glasgow this November.
The time is now to take comprehensive climate action that is both inclusive and equitable, as the #Youth4Climate: #DrivingAmbition delegates stated loud and clear. It’s up to our policymakers to heed their thoughtful words and make the commitments necessary to secure a sustainable existence for our planet and future generations. Leaders, the #WorldIsWatching.
Banner/thumbnail images by Leigh Vogel/Connect4Climate.
Youth Driving Ambition
The first theme the young delegates tackled in their working groups was one very close to home for them: Youth Driving Ambition. Their challenge was to find ways to increase youth participation at the local, national and global scales, and they tackled it with a three-pronged approach.
The delegates’ opening request to world leaders was that they work to ensure Meaningful Participation by youth in future climate negotiations, giving young representatives from around the world the chance to voice their lived experiences and ideas and make a real impact on international climate policy.
Next was a request for Capacity Building support: the provision of financial, administrative, and logistical resources to empower young people at the local level with the means to effectively express themselves on climate issues.
The crucial third component to the delegates’ Youth Driving Ambition proposal was Funding: they urgently requested the allocation of public and private monies to support youth participation in decision-making on climate.
Theme 2 on the young delegates’ docket was Sustainable Recovery: How can we build back from COVID-19 in a way that is sustainable and respectful of our planet’s needs?
At the heart of the team’s proposal here was a bold 2030 target for the global energy transition. Recognizing that the 2050 targets we have seen so far would be inadequate to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees, the delegates made a compelling case for 2030, calling for collaborative research and tech development coupled with a steady rollout of well-paying green jobs to keep economies moving.
Acknowledging that we are already seeing severe climate impacts in vulnerable parts of the world, the young people also called for support in tailoring the implementation of adaptation and resilience measures to marginalized communities in these regions. Equity means working hardest for those most in need.
The delegates also demanded that world leaders respect the rights of indigenous communities as well as their deep heritage and expertise, and called for ramped-up development of nature-based solutions in consultation with these groups.
The team went on to call for a “transparent and accountable climate finance system with robust regulation of carbon emissions,” noting the need to support renewable energy with substantial investment and drive development in that direction.
Finally, the youth homed in on the recovering global tourism sector, with a special focus on smaller countries whose economies hinge on tourist activity. The delegates called for the inclusion of youth, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in a concerted multilateral effort to support these nations in their recoveries while ensuring the brand of tourism they rebuild is sustainable and compatible with a green future.
Non-State Actors’ Engagement
Pivoting to Non-State Actors’ Engagement, the youth delegation asked world leaders to improve infrastructure and access to financial mechanisms in developing countries to facilitate the engagement of entrepreneurs, artists, farmers and athletes from underrepresented communities in the push toward sustainability.
The delegates also requested that private-sector companies be held accountable for their carbon emissions via the implementation of a robust reporting-and-assessment system rewarding committed strides toward net zero emissions while penalizing those who take little or no action.
Doubling down on their demand for the eradication of the fossil fuel industry by 2030, the youth made a compelling case for a decentralized global transition respecting the needs of minority communities in every region of the world while steadily advancing every such region along the road to net zero.
In anticipation of pushback from the fossil fuel industry, the delegates exhorted world leaders, private sector businesspeople and creatives to reject any sponsorships or cash infusions from fossil fuel companies and instead commit themselves fully to going green.
The final topic up for discussion was Climate-Conscious Society: How can we improve awareness of the climate crisis and give citizens of the world the tools they need to take action?
First off, the delegates stressed that world leaders must continue to create spaces for young people at the highest levels of policy-making and “support the creation of multi-stakeholder platforms and mechanisms for sharing climate information and solutions.”
This segued into a discussion of the vital role of education in driving climate engagement, with the youth delegation urgently requesting targeted financial support for the creation and implementation of climate-conscious curricula around the world. They stressed the need for case-by-case approaches that are respectful and representative of indigenous communities and other marginalized groups and called for the creation of more internships, exchanges and other opportunities in conjunction with empowering lessons in the classroom.
To mobilize members of the general public, the assembled youth leaders suggested the development of a sweeping outreach initiative using “arts, sports, entertainment, community leaders, influencers, and social media” to develop tailored messaging to most effectively ramp up climate engagement in specific regions around the world.
Rounding out the delegates’ presentation was a section on the role of media in shaping the climate narrative. Acknowledging news outlets’ outsized ability to sway public opinion on climate, the youth leaders called for a new international training regimen for journalists focused on harnessing modern platforms to communicate the severity of climate science to a wide audience in a way that’s both accessible and actionable.
Such a program would also serve to prepare journalists for the misinformation around climate they are apt to encounter on the job and equip them to call out greenwashing and inequity where they arise.