Representatives from the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN) are currently engaging at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in Germany hosted by the United Nations from May 16-26. The meeting comprises the 44th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 44), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 44) and the first ever session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1).
This meeting includes key discussions on the way forward under the Paris Agreement, which was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in December 2015 in Paris. Over the next two weeks, parties will seek to prepare the Paris Agreement for implementation and consider several key areas including reporting, capacity building, nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and global stocktaking for example. The participation of civil society, and especially young people through the Youth Constituency (YOUNGO), is ideal to achieve the goals of the CYCN at the SB44.
The CYCN aims to mainstream a youth perspective in the climate change policy discourse. The world needed an agreement which limits global warming well beyond 2 degrees Celsius, but it will only be successful if non-state actors work with governments and hold them accountable to their commitments. Youth have a key role to play in combating climate change. However, they are not just present to observe, but also to actively engage. Failure to give the youth a voice is to ignore over 1.2 billion people!
Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, requires an enabling environment, which offers young people the space to foster innovation and creativity. This will help to create a forum to generate new long-term solutions, utilise new media and rapid connectivity to increase public awareness and enhance both grassroots and global youth-led climate action.
Young people from the Commonwealth are playing a key role in addressing climate change through the CYCN. Since its inception in 2009, CYCN has achieved concrete advocacy and lobbying actions at global levels, aiming to create a ripple effect at a local level through its member organisations. In Cameroon, for example, Vital Actions for Sustainable Development (AVD) used presidential elections to raise awareness of sustainable development and climate change topics among citizens. Over six thousands individuals have signed a petition asking to all candidates at the election to include sustainable development and climate change in their proposed action plans in case they were elected. In Mauritius, SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH), a CYCN member, aware of the importance of protecting the marine environment, developed the #SeeingBlue project in May 2014 with the intention of encouraging more Mauritian youth to know, and care, about the marine environment that we so often take for granted.
By engaging its members in the Bonn conference through hosting side events, running an exhibit booth in joint collaboration with AVD, joining bilateral meetings, making interventions at sessions and negotiations, partnering with YOUNGO in order to strengthen its collaboration with the wider youth global climate audience while advocating on behalf of young people from the Commonwealth, the CYCN is positioning the youth perspective in the post-Paris Agreement policy discourse as the pre-requisite to secure and safeguard a sustainable future for all, especially Small Island Developing States. These states are at risk of facing the brunt of the adverse effects of climate change, where there is an uncertain future with the possibility of fatal risks to millions of people. The recent events on losses incurred from sea level rise induced by climate change has highlighted the plight of disappearing island nations in the Pacific region.
At a side event on May 17, titled ”Youth, Social Media, Music & Resource Mobilisation: Communicating Climate Change & Empowering Action”, Renice Anna-Lee Bostic, a CYCN member and Commonwealth Correspondent on climate change noted that “instilling environmental awareness at a young age is a crucial way to foster positive behavioural and lifestyle changes in order to protect the environment. Improved education on climate change, capacity building as well as raised awareness and improved access to information are needed. As young people, we can only influence positive change if we know what the challenges are and dare to share our new perspective.”
Youth can be critical in technological innovation to build resilience. For this reason, there is a need to invest in an institutionalised youth response including formalised youth frameworks because they are crucial to mobilising young people globally. Global mobilisation of youth can be pivotal to implementing the Paris Agreement as they are well placed to use media in terms of social awareness and social education.
Jean Paul Brice Affana, CYCN Coordinator, who co-moderated the side event with Margaux Jobin from CliMates, highlighted that ‘‘in order to make youth action on climate change powerful, we absolutely need to allocate appropriate resources to that role, and this start with significant commitments and pledges from those who have the resources.’’ As the Youth Constituency at the UNFCCC, YOUNGO needs to further be supported to convene the global youth led voice within the implementation process of the Paris Agreement. However, youth themselves need to understand their important role, and must monitor governments’ actions while holding them accountable to their promises. Ambitious goals are one thing but taking action in the same light is another.
As CYCN seeks to mainstream the youth perspective into policy making processes at the climate change arena both at the UN and Commonwealth levels, youth must continue to be encouraged to get involved, because how we live tomorrow will be as a direct result of what we do today. Inaction is simply not acceptable.
Written by Renice Bostic, CYCN member
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