Making a Difference: Intergenerational Solidarity and Youth Engagement in Climate Action

Intergenerational solidarity plays a key role in overcoming the challenges of youth-led climate action

Last week marked the observance of International Youth Day, which has taken place on August 12 every year since the United Nations declared it a day of awareness in 2000. International Youth Day aims to highlight the specific issues facing young people around the world in different sectors. or aspects of their lives, for example related to civic engagement, poverty eradication, transforming education, transforming food systems, or engaging young people for global action.

For 2022, International Youth Day focuses on the theme of “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”, which is strongly linked to the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and the need to sustainable development. Young people are a key stakeholder group who will be fundamentally impacted by the outcomes of today’s decisions and the success or failure of actions to combat climate change, preserve the environment and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals .

Young people make up almost 16% of the total world population, with the largest number of young people in South and Central Asia. This large youth population presents a powerful resource and can help accelerate climate action across different sectors and areas in countries like Sri Lanka. The engagement of young people at local, national, international and individual levels will be decisive when it comes to shaping the future and finding innovative and transformative solutions to climate change and the other global challenges described above.

Inclusion of young people in climate-related processes

The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which emerged from the United Nations “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, makes explicit reference to the “development and environmental needs of present and future generations” ( principle 3) as well as the need to mobilize “the creativity, ideals and courage of the world’s youth” to “achieve sustainable development and secure a better future for all” (principle 21).

Engaging young people as members of society and as important actors has been included in both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Article 6) and the 2015 Paris Agreement (section 12). Work related to these two articles is covered by the term Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), which has the overarching goal of empowering all relevant stakeholders, including young people, to engage in climate action. through education, training, public participation, public awareness, access to information and international cooperation. In addition, youth are also represented in the UNFCCC negotiations and other UN events related to climate change through an official youth group, youth delegates, youth envoys and the Youth Conference which runs in conjunction with the annual global climate change conferences.

The inclusion of young people in global agendas, which also include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Convention on Biological Diversity, sends a strong signal about the importance of young people as stakeholders and agents of change. There can be no solution to the crises facing the world today without looking to the younger generations who will take over as the decision makers of tomorrow.

Intergenerational solidarity to strengthen the commitment of young people

According to surveys and data collected, young people are often interested in engaging in climate action. However, many feel they don’t have enough time, knowledge or skills to do so. Moreover, they often find themselves facing challenges, obstacles and constraints that can complicate their participation in climate action. For example, young people may not have access to all relevant information or decision-making processes; they may be constrained by limited resources and unreliable or short-term funding; they may not be aware of different institutions, events or processes; or they could be directly affected by climate change in the form of reduced family income, loss of livelihoods, extreme weather events or food insecurity.

Intergenerational solidarity and the creation of an enabling environment for youth-led action play a key role in overcoming these challenges and enabling young people to reach their full potential. There are many possible activities in which young people can be involved – for example, raising awareness, capacity building, sensitizing local communities, advocacy, social media campaigns, environmental stewardship, initiatives smart agriculture, building networks, engaging in national and global initiatives. climate-friendly processes, research projects or entrepreneurship—and many ways older generations can support them.

One of these means is to bring about structural changes, for example in the education sector. Through education reforms and the integration of adaptation into school curricula, young people can gain life skills, specialist knowledge, skills and a voice as well as a sense of ownership of their actions . Additionally, youth-specific challenges and considerations need to be integrated into policy and planning processes, and young people need to be empowered to provide input and feedback as a key stakeholder group.

A second path could be a direct intergenerational exchange in the form of stipends and mentoring programs, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, open access to research and knowledge, and communication and a stronger intergenerational exchange. Young people today find themselves in a rapidly changing world, but they can still learn from past experiences, good practices or successes, for example through context-specific trainings or codified local and traditional knowledge. In turn, young people can offer new perspectives and innovative ideas that can open up new avenues for transformative change.

Third, young people need financial support and youth-specific funding opportunities, as well as logistical support, meeting and (co-)working spaces, technical assistance and possibility of renting or accessing equipment. Youth-led organizations often do not have access to reliable and sustainable funding that would be needed to implement medium and long-term projects, which is particularly important for the areas of climate action and conservation. ecosystems. This can also include proposal writing workshops, making small grants specifically for young people, experts and practitioners offering part of their time, or capacity building on how to manage the financial and administrative components of project management.

Climate change is a global challenge that affects all of society and must be addressed by all of society, including young people. Through solidarity and cooperation between present and future generations, countries and communities can unlock synergies and accelerate action to mitigate emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change and preserve the richness of natural biodiversity. and environmental resources while pursuing a path of innovation and sustainable development. .

(The author works as Director – Research and Knowledge Management at SLYCAN Trust, a non-profit think tank based in Sri Lanka. His work focuses on climate change, adaptation, resilience, conservation ecosystems, just transition, human mobility and a range of He holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Cologne, Germany, and writes regularly in several international and local media.)

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