Today, UKYCC organised a side event on the role of youth in combatting climate change, in collaboration with Make It Real International. We aimed at showcasing how the current system alienates youth voices – although young people will bear the brunt of decisions made today. This system is rigged and should be reformed. But in the meantime, we are not going to sit and stay still. Indeed, one just needs to open their eyes to see the rising movement of young people across the world that are joining the fight against climate change, the growing optimism in our capacity as humans to unite and come up with solutions together. Whether or not youth voices are institutionalised, young people are full of solutions, and they are developing them right now. Our side event gave a glimpse of all the amazing actions that young people are taking across the world to address the climate crisis, and aimed at empowering its audience in taking climate action.
The event kick started with five speakers from China, France, Japan, Kenya and Seychelles sharing stories of what they are doing on the ground to avert the climate crisis. Solutions offered included launching a recycle and reuse scheme in a Chinese university –given that there are almost no recycling facilities in China, that’s amazing!!-, running a Plastic Bag Free campaign in Seychelles –and teaching citizens to sow their own bag, so cool!-, linking established entrepreneurs with young people with a creative idea –face to face interaction is key in our digital era!-, and working on the ground with citizens to give them the means to engage in climate-friendly activities –because policy documents are useful, but let’s face it- not many citizens actually read them.
From left to right: Ann-Joelle from SIAH, Zhinan from CYCAN, Joanna from UKYCC, Manon and Katrina from Make It Real International and Frederick from AYICC.
The second part was really interactive – quite a change for the UNFCCC! Participants –a diverse mix of Party representatives, journalists, youth representatives and NGO workers from all around the world- were first asked to reflect on their journey as climate activists – an exercise internally called the river of life. While doing this, they had to keep in mind the skills that they had developed throughout and the force or issue that was driving their every –climate- move.
The third part was all about SOLUTIONS. Talking is good – but only if it is followed by concrete and actual actions. Participants were divided into groups based on their interests, and tasked with developing a set of solutions to that problem. They had to do so following Make It Real’s magical recipe to empower people to take action against climate change. (Seriously guys, check out what they do, it’s really cool – it’s la crème de la crème of citizens’ empowerment). Conversations became animated in no instant, with ideas quickly filling up the room –and their piece of paper. The best ideas were then presented to the rest of the crowd.
All in all, I think we can say that our side event was a success. Working in the climate change arena can often be depressing, given the scale of the problem, the urgency to act and the political stalemate. But today, after listening to our inspiring speakers and the wide range of solutions developed during and presented at our side event, I felt hopeful about the future, and our capacity as young people to stand up and fight against climate change.
Following our side event, Joanna Read and myself were quoted by DeSmog UK, yay.