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Youth in Climate Action

  • Published at 04:10 pm May 4th, 2019
Youth in climate action

Why is it High Time to Concentrate on Proper Youth Centric Climate Financing in Bangladesh?

Most of the disastrous impacts of climate change are expected to be felt within the near future. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the impacts, as they are often on the margins of decision-making and will face the climate change impacts for many more years to come. So it would be unethical to take steps (or not) to mitigate climate change or adapt to the problems without their contributions.

Globally, youths have participated in movements spontaneously (and in large numbers), they have collaborated with organizations that are working to address their concerns and provide solutions to real-world problems. According to UNFPA (2014), 48 million youth are living in Bangladesh, which is 30 percent of the total population. Securing the future of this large segment of society cannot be ensured without their participation and engagement at much larger scales than currently.

The Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth, and Climate Change is recognition of the role of youths in tackling climate change, given by the United Nations. This initiative coordinates efforts of 16 intergovernmental entities (e.g. UNFCC, FAO, UNDP, the World Bank group), some nongovernmental organizations (e.g. the British Council, EarthChild Institute, the World Association of Girls Guides) and many youth organizations to empower young people to take adaptation and mitigation actions and enhance active participation of youths in climate change policy and decision making processes.

In 2009, the UNFCC secretariat allowed the Youth Non-Governmental Organizations (YOUNGOs) to receive official information and notices, to participate in the meetings, to request speaking slots, and to receive logistical support. The YOUNGO networks have been organising the Conference of the Youth (COY) every year on the weekend before the UN-Level COP, since 2005.

This conference brings together the climate change enthusiastic young people from around the world, who promote sustainable lifestyles, look to reduce their emissions footprints and are eager to engage. In the 21st UNFCC intergovernmental negotiation conference (COP 21), youth delegates got involved through a broad range of activities for the very first time.

At the latest conference, COP24, a sixteen-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg gave a powerful speech on climate change which drew the attention of the world, proving the power of youth activities and their voices.

Examples of climate actions taken by the youth are not only in international conferences. Youths are also implementing various projects around the world.

In Central Guyana, the Amerindian people are “Custodians” of the rainforest but have a severe lacking in their basic needs. A project designed to ensure the protection of the forest, aiming at improving health, hygiene and environmental management delivered a child-to-child educational programme. This programme engaged and empowered the children, of that particular area, to conserve the rainforests, which vastly contributed to mitigation efforts, by absorbing CO2 emissions.

In Morocco, the El Moudda adaptation Initiative is an award-winning project, which is led by young people under 30; this is a community-based adaptation project aiming at various sustainable development measures. They build infrastructure such as dams and early flood warning systems to support community-based Disaster Risk Management. They helped the community through local consultations, awareness raising for conservation, reforestation and re-vegetation of the land aside from the villages.

In Ethiopia, UNICEF financed 50,000 school going students, through their environmental clubs, for planting trees in the region of Addis Ababa as a mitigation and adaptation measure.

It is imperative that the Bangladesh government and society as a whole help prepare our significant youth population to fight for a sustainable future. There is a vast opportunity in supporting the youth to contribute to existing policies and agenda of the Government and boost national development.

Among the key policies developed by the government (in relation to climate change) are; the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP 2009) and the Country Investment Plan (CIP) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change—both of which focus on community-based adaptation, increasing resilience at the community level and capacity building as crucial approaches to sustainable development for Bangladesh. Similar to the examples above, such as El Moudda Initiative, the youth of Bangladesh can be engaged to deliver real changes at the community levels.

Youth actions in climate change have already been activated in Bangladesh. Various environment-related university clubs had started working in this problem. They are arranging workshops, seminars, innovation fair, various competitions on climate change and environment-related problems.

For example, Local chapters of Youth-mappers are contributing a lot in mapping base volunteering, and Green Planet Club of Independent University organized Green Genius Contest, where university students present their innovative ideas to make a sustainable environment.

Academic institutions are also promoting youth-oriented climate actions. Department of Environmental Sciences, Bangladesh University of Professionals, arranged Environmental Fest last year. Institute of Remote Sensing, Jahangirnagar University arranged two days workshop on applications of GIS and Remote Sensing, where 100 students from ten universities participated and had some introductory lessons about applications of geospatial technologies in environmental management.

A recent initiative, developed by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) supported by UKAid and British Council, aims to build the capacity of young people to become the actors in taking climate actions. It is designed as a year-long mentorship programme, entitled “Re-think & Innovate for a Sustainable Environment (RISE)” that works to engage the youth (selected university students from across Bangladesh) to break down the complex sustainability issues that will challenge their generation and to identify opportunities in how they can initiate projects and activities on their own.

The programme focuses on providing a grounding of climate science and sustainability issues, mentoring on project design and implementation, representing their peers among various stakeholders (policymakers/practitioners/private sector firms, etc.) and engaging their peers to collaborate and participate in national development issues.

As a critical barrier to most initiatives is support (mostly financial and technical), the programme aims to catalyze the youth into; identifying the appropriate assistance and guidance needed, to approach key stakeholders (investors/decision-makers, etc.) and propose feasible solutions and mobilize their peers into making real changes.

The youth of any nation is a valuable asset for prosperity and sustainable development, and the youth of Bangladesh is no different. These eager and enthusiastic minds can, and should, be channeled towards adaptation & mitigation projects (under our existing policies/frameworks).

To network and share their ideas, and most importantly, to become actors that take climate actions it is vital to provide adequate support and assistance by investing in the youth of our nation.

Sakib Rahman Siddique Shuvo is a student at Jahangirnagar University.