Our Future At Stake: The Global Youth Voice At COP26 by Ahmad, Ester, Sophie, Xan and Xuan
Our Future At Stake: The Global Youth Voice At COP26 by Ahmad Bassam, Ester Galende Sánchez, Sophie Stroehler, Xan Northcott, Xuan Zi Han
COP26 Youth Headline Event: Youth Advocates Present Global Youth Statement to High-Level Dignitaries. Photo Credit: YOUNGO
Climate science, as recognized by all countries in the reports of the IPCC, clearly shows that the effects of climate change will impact children and youth more than any other generation alive today. In response, the youth climate movement has galvanized the world’s attention around the urgent need for climate action, through campaigns and protests, and increasingly through advocacy and direct policy influence as well.
For many young people, COP26 felt like the last chance to protect our future,
and as world leaders gathered in Glasgow, thousands of youth joined the center stage to demand intergenerational equity and ensure youth climate priorities and policy proposals were recognized by decision-makers.
Throughout the COP processes, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) welcomes non-governmental input, including through YOUNGO, the official Children and Youth Constituency, which serves to represent the global youth voice within the negotiations. This year, YOUNGO made a landmark impact, delivering the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) immediately prior to COP26 in Glasgow. In addition, over a six-month period leading up to COP, YOUNGO produced the Global Youth Statement (GYS) on climate change, which represents youth demands in response to the climate crisis. It features 15 thematic areas of concern, ranging from energy and finance to climate justice, nature conservation, and loss and damage, offering a holistic view of how the climate crisis intersects with every aspect of our lives. The overarching demand that unifies all themes is that the youth as knowledge-bearers and agents of change should be actively and meaningfully included in all decision-making processes concerning the climate change governance that will shape the world we and future generations will inherit.
Multiple rounds of open consultation via surveys and meetings provided 5000 individual and institutional inputs and guided us in creating the appropriate framework for the document. In a collaborative effort with YOUNGO’s working groups, COY16 country coordinators and delegates, additional virtual and local conferences of youth, and universities and youth climate groups from across the globe, a truly inclusive and representative first-of-its-kind document reflecting the key demands shared by all global youth on climate policymaking was created.
On the 5th of November, during the headline event of the “Youth Day'' at COP26, the statement was officially presented to some of the world’s most important actors on climate change, including COP26 President Alok Sharma, UNFCCC Secretary-General Patricia Espinosa, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and COP26 Lead Negotiator for the UK Archie Young. These high-level dignitaries acknowledged the tremendous efforts by all youth volunteers involved in the process of writing and shaping the GYS and committed to amplifying youth voices at the key negotiation stages.
COP26 Youth Headline Event: High-Level Speakers Respond To Youth Demands. Photo Credit: YOUNGO
Furthermore, we advocated the Global Youth Statement demands in bilateral meetings with COP26 delegates, country representatives, negotiators, and government officials, and had the opportunity to share this document with civil society and the public in the Green Zone, including with High-Level Climate Action Champion Nigel Topping. Together, our collective efforts garnered over 47,000 supporting signatures for the GYS and led to the acknowledgment of the COY16 outcomes by the Glasgow Climate Pact in Article 63. In a historic recognition of the importance of youth political inclusion, the need to ensure meaningful youth participation and representation in global climate change decision-making was also highlighted in Article 64.
Overall, the statement represents an unprecedented achievement in uniting young people around the world behind a collective position on the climate crisis. Moving forward, the statement will serve as an important asset in driving youth engagement in climate policymaking. As the world reflects on the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Pact, the statement will continue to evolve as a work in progress, shaping the agendas and priorities of youth at future COPs.
In this sense, our achievements are only the beginning of a longer and more ambitious journey to institutionalize youth participation in climate governance on local, national, and international levels. The Global Youth Statement has demonstrated young people’s dedication to protecting the planet for future generations. We are demanding from world leaders real and radical action, and the same dedication that we will tirelessly continue ourselves.
Follow this link to read the Global Youth Statement and our 15 key demands translated into all UN languages. For further information, please contact email@example.com.
About the Authors
Ahmad Bassam, Ester Galende Sánchez, Sophie Stroehler, Xan Northcott, and Xuan Zi Han are members of YOUNGO, the official Children and Youth Constituency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).