As climate change catastrophe continues to threaten human existence, governments and organizations should recognize the key role that youth play in tackling climate change and work closely with young people for innovative solutions.
As UN Secretary-General Antinio Guterres remarked, the urgency of the climate crisis calls on all of us to advance climate action – leaders, governments, businesses, civil society especially women and youth. Our fate is in our hands. The world is counting on all of us. Youth innovation is essential to addressing the crisis – young people must have an active and recognized role in interventions related to climate change.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report, global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015.
The report reveals that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have also increased to record levels, locking in the warming trend for generations to come. Across the world, young people are enraged about the lack of action on climate change, and have been calling for action. Youth are both demanding action and taking action, and a lot of it is very innovative.
A 16 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has been rallying young people around the world to demonstrate and show their dissatisfaction with how world leaders are protecting the planet.
In Uganda, Leah Namugerwa, a 14-year-old climate activist and student has been striking every Friday for greater action on climate change, plastic pollution and more. Indeed, millions of young people have been making headlines to raise global awareness of the dire consequences climate change could have for their generation’s future. Young people are making change happen, though their activism and also though their jobs and livelihoods.
Meanwhile, more quietly, but also around the globe, young people have been charting that future as they help their communities adapt to the changes already happening. There are so many initiatives and so many young people trying to address climate change and make the world better.
In Ghana, young people came up with Bamboo Bicycle Project, a healthy, non-polluting form of alternative transport to meet growing mobility needs while addressing climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, and high unemployment among the youth.
Congolese youth are working to contribute to REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The youth have initiated a project that deals with the promotion of conservation and sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
In Kenya, young people like Elizabeth Wathuti are mobilizing to create a positive environmental impact. Elizabeth has founded the Green Generation Initiative to address global environmental challenges like deforestation, pollution and environmental injustices. She’s been able to conduct numerous tree planting activities such as clean ups and environmental education activities, all while increasing awareness of global environmental challenges like climate change.
As former UNDP head Hellen Clark rightly remarked, with youth comes energy, vibrancy, and optimism – if there is a supportive environment and opportunity. That lays the ground for major positive contributions and a demographic dividend from the largest youth population the world has ever known. Yet a failure to invest in opportunity for youth can quickly lead to the opposite –to alienation and to energy turned in destructive rather than constructive directions. That is a future we invite at our peril.
Innovative approaches to development using a wide range of new technologies and media to engage citizens and improve services are increasingly being used, and can play a big role in implementing the broad sustainable development agenda.
There is need to tap directly into the insights of youth, communities, and small entrepreneurs to help define challenges and implement solutions. Organisations can use crowdsourcing to get wide input into the development of its youth strategy.