• Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:11 am

Youth at the forefront of climate action

  • Published at 07:55 pm September 27th, 2021
Photo: PIXABAY
Photo: PIXABAY

Interview with three young climate activists from Bangladesh

Adiba Bintey Kamal

Adiba Bintey Kamal is working as a project associate on the youth and climate finance program at International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). She is also working as a country coordinator for Bangladesh for COY16. She has completed her graduation in disaster and human security management and did masters in development studies at the Bangladesh University of Professionals. 


What drove you to become a climate activist?

During the third year of my undergrad, while studying disaster and human security management, I had developed a passion for working as a youth activist to address issues like climate change, human security and awareness about plastic pollution. Then, I started looking for opportunities to get connected and work as a youth. 

After a while, I learned about the RISE youth leadership program and participated in it as a participant in the final year of my undergrad. This was my first step towards climate activism. The one-year program helped me to enrich my knowledge and expertise in this area. After the leadership program ended, I got the chance to use my learnings as a researcher and later, RISE-II youth leadership group facilitator. This is how my journey as a youth climate activist began. 

How would you describe the responsibilities of being a country coordinator?

Since last October, I have been working as a country coordinator of Bangladesh for Conference of Youth (COY)16. COY16 is the annual gathering of YOUNGO members, the official Youth Constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the first time a youth activist like me is participating at COY16 and representing Bangladesh. 

As a country coordinator, my responsibilities are planning with the both COY16 coordination team and Bangladeshi universities, coordinating meetings with the national universities and youth-led NGO’s, and mobilizing grassroots outreach and engagement of the youth in Bangladesh to discuss the COY16 activities. Apart from that, developing different fund-raising activities to raise funds for the Bangladesh team for COY16 is also listed as my responsibility. 

What are the challenges you think youths your age face while taking part in activism?

The first step is always very challenging, to work as a climate activist becomes difficult as the youths work alone in this field. Furthermore, knowledge, institutional and financial resources are also a barrier for them to raise their voice. Sometimes, the local and national level youths are unable to include their voice in the international platform due to a lack of financial facilities. This challenge leads to a negative impact on activism. As a result, youth's mostly lost interest in working in climate action. 

What would your message be for youths in climate action?  

Each step will have barriers and challenges, but fighting with it might open a new window for the youths to work as climate activists as challenges are always associated with every success. So, taking the first step is very important to become a climate activist as this step leads an individual to what they want to do. 

Climate activists should have confidence and courage in raising their voice on local, national, and international platforms. In activism, the most important thing is that it doesn’t only bound in one form, so anyone interested can become a climate activist according to their interest because future climate action entirely depends on them.

Do you have any goals in mind as a country coordinator?

As I grow professionally, I want to promote more youth-led activities in the climate change arena because we need more innovative solutions to address this crisis. I want to establish a platform where I’ll be able to capacitate the youths from both local and national levels and then connect them with the international youth and the international platform. I strongly believe that by involving the youth, we can pull the change that we need and want to see in future. 


Shohail Bin Saifullah

Shohail Bin Saifullah is currently working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development(ICCCAD) under the Youth Program and Climate Finance Program as a Project Associate. Shohail is also a coordinating member of the “Global Youth Engagement Program'', a youth capacity building program jointly under Penn State University Sustainability Institute and Club of Rome. He is a graduate from Independent University, Bangladesh(IUB) under the program of Environmental Science and Management. 


What drove you to become a climate activist?

I believe activism comes innately to some, to others it comes through experience and capacity training. I happen to fall under the latter. During my formative years as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity of realizing my passion for climate change, especially the human dynamics within climate change. 

While studying climate change, I realized that there is a significant lack of youth inclusion in climate dialogue. Furthering from there, during my tenure as the president of a student-led club at my university, Green Planet Club, I fell in love with social work and volunteerism. It became clear to me that to have an actual impact on the youth in climate advocacy, youth need more opportunities to undergo capacity development. 

Once they are capacitated, we need to provide prominent platforms where they can have their voices heard. From the club, we were able to give that “better platform” where we facilitated youth capacity development through the utilization of club and university resources, and I believe that's where my journey began.

What are the challenges you think youths your age face while taking part in activism?

Youth voices and youth actions are of vital importance in the current climate change advocacy arena, as today's youth will be the shepherds of the world tomorrow. It is high time that we move past the idea of mass individualism and try to come together as a community. 

When it comes to capacitating the youth towards understanding and being proactive climate advocates, there are mainly 4 hurdles that come in the way:

  • Education: Proper understanding and education of the topic are of utmost importance, as passion and drive will be underutilized when there is a lack of quality education.
  • Institutional barriers: Even if youth have access to proper education, they require the support or backing of a credible institution. Having proper institutional backing will allow the youth to take part in stakeholders’ meetings or to avail access to relevant platforms.
  • Lack of credibility: People tend not to give space to youth because of their lack of credibility but taking the above into consideration the two points can be addressed, their acceptance can be enhanced.
  • Lack of finance: Considering the fact that in the majority of cases, funds are controlled by governmental agencies or donor organizations, youth are required to sort through many issues to gain financing for their projects. However, if we are to capacitate and empower the youth, acquiring grants will become much easier.

What would your message be for youths in climate action?  

Being a part of the coordination team of the Global Youth Engagement Program under Penn State University Sustainability Institute and Club of Rome and through my work in youth in climate change, I would like to state the following for the youth who will be reading this article:

●    Youth voices are absolutely necessary for tackling climate change, but your voices and opinions will not be heard if you do not try and take initiative towards making a change. Your stake at the table will not be given to you, you have to earn a seat at the table.

●    Being an activist and being passionate about climate change is not enough, hone your knowledge and skills so that when you do speak up, your voice does not get sidelined. Become an expert, so that when you speak people will have to stop and listen to what you have to say.


Sarah Farheen Khan

Sarah Farheen Khan is an environmentalist and climate activist currently serving at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development. She is also a member of the Global Coordination Team of YOUNGO (Children and Youth Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC). Sarah has been invited to speak at several international conferences for her active participation in advocating for climate action, gender equity, health, and wellbeing.


What drove you to become a climate activist?

Throughout my childhood, I’ve been passionate about social work and was involved in volunteering. Later, I reached the decision to pursue my higher education in Environmental Science, thinking it will somehow lead a way to help the society and grass root level community. During my study, I was given full exposure to field education and hands-on experience in climate-vulnerable areas of my country. Whether that be for collecting data, measuring pH value of water, soil, or identifying issues for biodiversity loss. 

And being able to visit the most vulnerable sites and interact with individuals recovering emotionally from disasters is what actually motivated me to be an activist. Then and there I made up my mind to be the voice of the voiceless.  And started being vocal about the vulnerabilities we deal with in climate change susceptible countries and how essential it has become to shift towards sustainability. 

How would you describe the goal and responsibilities of being a country coordinator?

What we do as country representatives is in the name of the group itself, YOUNGO (YOUTH NGO), we are an independent and international platform and a network consisting of hundreds of young individuals below the age of 35, as well as youth groups and non-governmental organizations. Where we collectively aim to inspire, empower, and mobilize a generational movement of young people to take action on climate change.

Hence, we as country coordinators, encourage more youths to choose climate activism, from our respective regions. And provide them with an international platform to showcase their positive and change-making ideas.

Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, our determination for climate action has been the same as many of the root causes of climate change may also increase the risk of the COVID 19 scenario. We held virtual meetings to share knowledge and build capacity through the working groups, free to join for all members. Namely health, loss and damage, women & gender, NDC enhancement, Ocean’s voice. These working groups create an evidence base for best practices. This is done through the assessment of existing knowledge, generating new knowledge, identification of emerging issues, in addition to effective use and dissemination through webinars, workshops, conferences and of course with opportunities to publish our work.   

What are the challenges that you think youths your age face while taking part in activism?

I feel youth and adolescents are the passive victims of climate change. Now that climate change is a widely discussed topic, we youths are very much careful about our consumption and are unhesitant about taking a step towards green growth, but we belong to an adult-led society where all the negotiations and important decisions are watched by the adults. 

This would have been fine, but with backwardness in intergenerational equity, our concerns, consents, and viewpoints are often undermined and not supported, even though it is us, the last generation who actually can combat climate change. 

Another great barrier that hinders youth engagement would be a lack of financial resources. To authenticate our demands, we need to conduct research but we as youth receive little to zero funding from well-established organizations which leaves us to do most of the research and participatory based works voluntarily. 

Do you have any message for youths in climate action?  

The recent climate-induced bushfires and flash floods in well-developed countries are an indication of the final warning, that the worst is yet to come. The latest IPCC report says it all, if we don’t mend our lifestyles, the next hit will be even worse. The youths in Climate Action should have the ability to speak up and point out the pitfall of climate change. 

The more knowledge we have, the more we can influence the crowd as well as convince the political leaders. It is a global challenge we are going through, and we have to work together to battle against this crisis. 


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