Global youth demands concrete climate action at pre-COP summit

October 1, 2021

Nearly 400 youth delegates from 189 countries demanded more urgent and ambitious action in front of world leaders at a pre-COP climate summit in Milan, Italy.

During the 3-day “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition” event, the delegates developed positions on climate action that will be integrated into the negotiations at the UN Conference of Parties or COP26 in Glasgow, the United Kingdom in November. 

The demands involved four themes covering responses to the climate crisis: driving ambition, sustainable recovery, non-state actors’ engagement, and climate-conscious society. 

Among the key demands is the “meaningful participation” of youth professionals and advocates at the global, national, and local levels. 

The young people also called for nations and public and private financial institutions to provide accessible funding to support such participation in climate-related decision-making.

In aid of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the delegates stated the need to prioritize nature-based solutions with respect to vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples. 

This would be supported by improved financial flows that include regulations of carbon emissions and protecting vulnerable nations from repaying investments in adaptation and mitigation projects.

The total phase-out of fossil fuels by 2030 was also highlighted. With a recent global report revealing that a drastic cut of carbon emissions is necessary to avoid more catastrophic impacts, the delegates called for a just transition to renewable energy that upholds social justice. 

This would involve enhancing environmental transparency and accountability from policymakers.

An educated and empowered society in the era of the climate emergency was emphasized. In recognition of the influence of behavior on implementing solutions, calls such as multi-stakeholder platforms, climate change integration into school curricula, improved communication of key information to the public, and increasing media coverage of related issues were made. 

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed the youth statement on the climate crisis, remarking that “under current threats, we are falling short”.

“You are right to demand accountability and change,” he said.

Draghi pointed to how climate change affects other aspects of development, including food security and eradicating poverty. 

He emphasized that the world must face the cost of transition now, or face a much higher price of climate-related disasters.

“The ecological transition is not a choice. It is a necessity,” he added.

As a co-host of COP26 with the United Kingdom, Draghi pledged that the Italian government will push countries to honor climate pledges and make bolder ones. 

These involve raising current national commitments in reducing emissions to align with the 1.5-degree target and mobilizing the US$100 billion fund for vulnerable countries.

“Your mobilization has been powerful and rest assured, we are listening,” he said to the delegates.

In his address, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that young people are paying the price for inaction on the climate crisis through more extreme weather events and the lost opportunities they cause. 

“It will be your generation who are left to do the consequences if we should fail,” he said.

Johnson encouraged the youth representatives to keep pressuring politicians and business leaders to successfully address the global threat, noting that their roles would go beyond the three-day event. 

He highlighted the shift of the United Kingdom’s energy source away from coal in the past three decades, and as a call to action, that “there is still just enough time to put on the brakes.”

“We can make COP26 in November the beginning of the end of climate change,” he added.

In a pre-recorded message, Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, also expressed his admiration of the Youth4Climate participants for bringing attention to the climate crisis. 

He stressed the justice aspect of this issue, saying that “the poorest and the most vulnerable are the hardest hit”.

Guterres encouraged the delegates to continue raising their voices at the forefront of climate action. “We need national leaders to follow your example,” he said.

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