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Youth Voices, Unfiltered


Scroll through to see young people's take on the global climate emergency, and the work that they are doing to fight against climate change.
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Little Wins at Glasgow by Veena Balakrishna

Little Wins at Glasgow - A New Work Programme for Action for Climate Empowerment by Veena Balakrishnan

Photo Credit: YOUNGO

Action for Climate Empowerment, commonly known as ACE in the UNFCCC and climate regime, is the term adopted to denote the work under Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement. Youth, as the group who will suffer significantly from any climate inaction, have an important role in ensuring that we avert the climate crisis. This role is especially crucial when looking at ACE implementation, in empowering others and ensuring they have the capacity to pave the way to a more sustainable future.

In February 2020, the ACE working group of YOUNGO (click to read YOUNGO introduction), the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC submitted their recommendations and views on the future work for ACE. Their recommendations highlighted the need for a new and enhanced Glasgow Work Programme, one that goes beyond the Doha Work Programme (DWP), aligns with the Paris Agreement, SDGs and establish synergy with the UNFCCC processes and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) revisions.

Earlier in July 2021, young people working on climate empowerment policy and actions also met at the ACE Youth Forum. The Forum provided a framework for expected outcomes from the Glasgow Work Programme at COP26. Additionally, the Forum gathered youth demands for ACE from all over the world - covering over 130 countries - and leveraged the ACE Youth Forum outcomes to lobby negotiators to prioritize youth demands at the 26th Conference of the Parties. COP26. The key policy demands from this forum included - mandatory annual reporting on domestic ACE initiatives, implementation & capacity building, resource support for parties who may otherwise not be able to do so, a structure for international collaboration on ACE within the UNFCCC complemented with a financial structure for ACE implementation.

And, in November 2021, the parties met in Glasgow for COP26. The conference that concluded two weeks ago came out with the Glasgow Work Programme (GWP) on ACE - a little crown, a jewel, a win, and a future to look forward to. The GWP is a symbol of hope and progress, especially for the youth, and here are some reasons why.

The newly drafted work program takes notice of and incorporates some of the recommendations from the ACE working group’s recommendations from Feb 2020. For instance, it reaffirms the role that a broad range of stakeholders, such as all levels of governments, institutions, the private sector, NGOs, and youth play in ensuring Action for Climate Empowerment. This recognition, and the formal acknowledgment of young people’s role in the decision text, is a landmark achievement because it acknowledges our contribution - the contribution of youth from all around the world. Bas Tuenter, the contact point of the ACE working group of YOUNGO also adds that” It gives us credibility during lobbying and negotiations in addition to allowing us to hold our decision-makers accountable - asking them to be inclusive and work with all stakeholders to take action on ACE”.

Another important similarity in the youth recommendations from February 2020 and the Glasgow Work Programme, is the recognition of the need for financial and technical resources for adequately improving climate action. This continues to be a challenge for all countries, especially the developing countries. In response to this, the Glasgow Work Programme encourages the parties to increase their support to the designated national focal points for ACE. This will help strengthen their capacity to design and implement intervention on ACE and their capacity to drive inclusion during implementation.

While there seems to be progress on youth engagement in policy around ACE, which might be stealing the attention, young people are also concerned by the unfavorable similarities that continue to exist between the Doha Work Programme and the newly adopted Glasgow Work Programme at COP26. For instance, the lack of reporting mechanisms, funding for ACE projects, mandatory reporting on ACE, or any measurable objectives being set.

Most importantly, young people were very disappointed by the actions of parties to intentionally remove human rights from the proposed text for ACE under the Glasgow Work Programme.

The YOUNGO ACE working group, in raising awareness on this issue, supported multiple actions during COP26 to raise awareness about the relevance of human rights and the implementation of ACE.

In conclusion, while the number of mentions of youth in the Glasgow Work Program supersedes that of the Doha Work Program, most of the new elements that are necessary for closing the chronic gap in ACE - finance, monitoring mechanisms, human rights and gender justice, and formal youth inclusion in delegations need to be placed at the core rather than getting a spot in the Annex, or in some cases, not mentioned at all.

Now, there is only one thing left to do as Bas Tuenter says “the ACE Working Group will focus on the ACE action plan (a part of the Glasgow Work Programme), the fate of which will be decided in Bonn, in June 2022.” Additionally, he adds that in Bonn, the working group will push the parties for concrete ACE actions and will urge the parties and decision-makers to holistically adopt the ACE Action Plan which is part of the Glasgow Work Programme on ACE by COP27 at the latest. Because, if we fail there, this decision will lead merely to the tokenization of youth and inaction on ACE as we have seen in the last two decades since the launch of the New Delhi Work Program - the first Work Program under ACE.

Photo Credit: YOUNGO

Photo credit from actions held at COP26 as a response to the removal of human rights language from the Glasgow Work Programme (GWP)


About the Author

Veena Balakrishnan is the YOUNGO COP26 Communication Lead.

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Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth supports all young people and their diversity in exercising their right to freedom of expression. Reach Not Preach platform serves as a safe space for all young people to share their take on the topic of climate change. The views expressed in the Reach Not Preach platform are those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth and the United Nations.

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