The role of youth in the climate debate

Young people have a huge stake in global climate change debate.

We account for 50% of the population, are most likely to feel the effects of climate change, and are also one of the groups who have done the least to impact the climate.

But getting young voices heard is no easy task.

My first real experience of the international climate debate was in Durban last December at the UN’s climate conference. Since then I have attended two more of these negotiations and have met with and spoken with young people from across the world.

It is easy to see why people might give up. The conferences are full of negotiators in their smart suits, iPads under their arms. They are also full of complex terminology and acronyms like KP, LCA, ADP.

But there are growing numbers of young people – armed with the knowledge and the enthusiasm to tackle climate change – who are determined to get their voices heard.

They’ve achieved this through speeches in the main plenary, tweeting, blogging – and some remarkable stunts.

In fact they have become increasingly difficult to ignore.

At the end of the day, it is the future of the young people that climate campaigners and negotiators a like are fighting for, and they have a key role in ensuring the right decisions are made.

They also bring another dimension to the debate, whether at home or abroad.

Over the past year I have heard young people describe their unique attributes as a cheekiness that most older people would never get away with.

They also act as somewhat of a conscience for the politicians. A constant reminder of why they are there fighting for a different future. Finally let’s not forgot it is the young people who will become the politicians, the negotiators, the educators and the campaigners of the future.

It is important young people feel empowered to make that change.

One of the biggest signs of hope recently has come from the newest youth movement to join the climate change arena – the Arab Youth Climate Network.

With members from all over the Arab nations, these guys have formed as Qatar gets ready to host the latest COP talks. A region which has not seen a huge civil society presence in the past, these guys are a sign of what the future could hold in the region.

I have enjoyed learning from these groups over the past year. When so much of my work involve the doom and gloom side of climate change, it is easy to despair but talking to these groups helps give me hope for my future.

Check out this (work in progress) map of the global climate movement, put together for RTCC:

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