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Young climate activists claim their seat at the table

Hivos supports young activists from the Global South in claiming a seat at the table during international climate change conferences. They are among the groups hit hardest by the climate crisis but too often are not taken into account by climate solution decision makers. Kenyan youth climate activists Duncan, Sammy, and Emily joined our partner SID’s Youth Climate Network in Dubai last December at the COP28 climate conference. Here are their take-aways:

“Attending COP28 was an intensely motivating and eye-opening experience for me. My goals were to learn more about climate change and share innovative ideas for climate action. I was also hoping that world leaders would promise to cut more carbon emissions. During the two weeks in Dubai, I learned a lot, but I also left disappointed because the countries could not agree enough on how to tackle climate change and support communities most affected.

Still, COP28 motivated me to keep pushing leaders to move faster on climate action. I also want to focus more on local solutions that my country can put in place. Even when global talks move slowly, we can all take steps to reduce emissions. I met inspiring young activists at the conference who taught me that policy is one path, but direct action also matters. My time in Dubai showed we have no time to lose on climate change. More people need to recognize that so we can create the political will for bolder action.”

Unite. Act. Deliver.” With this slogan, COP28 aimed for results in terms of uniting, acting, and delivering on commitments made by parties. This was the first time Global Stocktake was delivered. When birds learned that hunters could shoot without aiming, they had to learn how to fly without perching. The impact of climate change is also a moving target and becomes worse day by day. It cannot be handled just by talks, but action. The Loss and Damage Fund agreed on at COP27 was operationalized at COP28. This, in my opinion, was a success, especially with host country United Arab Emirates contributing 100 million dollars to the fund. COP28 was also supposed to end the era of fossil fuels as agreed at the last COP climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.  My expectation was that the conference Presidency would champion the phasing out of fossil fuels, but it only committed to phasing down fossil fuels. 

Youth are steadily taking more seats at the climate change decision-making table. But the voices of young people in the Global South need more support to be heard. However, support doesn’t mean being spoon fed, but rather enabling them to walk the talk. The UNFCCC organized hands-on transparency training which was fundamental to me as an expert reviewer. I would encourage young people to take advantage of such opportunities as soon as possible. Young people are the ones who will face the repercussions of today’s negligence tomorrow, so they ought to be on the frontlines of climate action. The best time to act was yesterday, the next best time is now.”

“Joining other global delegates at COP28, I had clear goals: to amplify youth voices and advocate for international collaboration to realize the ambitious commitments made. Organizing and being part of vibrant side events exposed me to powerful dialogues and highlighted the import role young people play in different sectors. The Youth Day conversations about the urgent need for intergenerational equity, environmental justice, and sustainable development were a major highlight.

Being part of the Kenyan delegation also let me follow important discussions and the different negotiations. Mitigation issues and Article 6 were of particular interest. I heard great insights and learned about the intricacies of climate policy on effective mitigation strategies and fair mechanisms. I witnessed the great passion young people have in their advocacy efforts, and I myself engaged in pivotal discussions. I hope that my contributions resulted in tangible outcomes locally and globally. However, I am still disappointed at the many gaps and the slow pace of global consensus. But I still hold on to the hope that commitments made for a sustainable future will be implemented.”

The Voices for Just Climate Action (VCA) program, initiated in January 2021, is a lobby and advocacy program implemented by an alliance led by four strong Southern CSOs: Akina Mama wa Afrika, Fundación Avina, Slum Dwellers International and SouthSouthNorth, and two Global CSOs: Hivos and WWF-Netherlands, under the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ five-year strategic partnership: “Power of Voices.” The program aims to ensure that by 2025, local civil society and underrepresented groups will have taken on central roles as creators, facilitators, and advocates of innovative and inclusive climate solutions.

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