Youth Advocates Nafesha Richardson and Deaney Gellizeau returned to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines after a rigorous three days at the landmark Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition event in Milan, Italy over the period September 28-30th 2021.
The Youth4Climate focused on developing proposals across four (4) thematic areas and featured the presence of Climate Activist Greta Thurnberg and Vanessa Nakete as well as the Ministers attending PreCOP26 and COP26.
This was part of activities in preparation for the 2021 UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom, where world leaders will resume negotiating the terms of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the climate crisis.
Youth4Climate saw 400+ youth delegates from 189 countries convened to formulate a unified statement for climate action. It was a historic occasion and marks the first massive gathering of this nature since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event is also the latest attempt to answer the question, “what exactly should meaningful youth participation be?” and highlights the right of youth to be included and involved in decision-making processes in addressing the climate crisis at the local, national and multilateral levels.
The key calls made include: complete eradication of fossil fuels by 2030; urgent just transition to renewable energy; transparent and accountable climate finance systems; capacity-building and finance for youth involvement in climate policymaking; and climate change integration into education curriculum. These are the same demands that the youth and other vulnerable sectors have been screaming to global leaders for decades; yet the urgency of responding to these demands is rapidly growing by the day as inadequate action remains the norm.
In an exclamation to BBC UK news, Deaney has summarised quite concisely, the effects of our continued inaction;
“Our approach to Climate Change has been quite uncoordinated, and in a couple of years, if this haphazard and chaotic approach to Climate Action continues then we will lose our homes, we will lose our countries, we will lose entire Islands!” Gellizeau said.
Nafesha and Deaney worked with the other delegates to make demands to governments and corporations based on four themes: driving ambition; sustainable recovery; non-state actors’ engagement; and climate-conscious society.
Nafesha worked under the Youth Driving Ambition Working Group and Co-Facilitated the subgroup surrounding meaningful youth engagement at the National level. Among the sub-group’s key asks was The creation and adoption of a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) adopted by national legislation, composed by but not limited to multidisciplinary youth leaders who represent the youth communities including stigmatized, marginalized, vulnerable groups and taking into account gender representation, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Commenting on her experience, Nafesha laments that:
“As a young person from a region highly susceptible to the dangers of climate change, co-facilitating this discussion not only allowed me to understand the concerns of my global colleagues, but ensured that the specific needs of SIDS were represented. To this end, I was able to input a clause in the document regarding guaranteeing funding and resource mobilization for youth-led initiatives from SIDS and LDCs.”
From this experience, Nafesha hopes to take more action with her organization Spark SVG to ensure that young people are included in the planning and implementation of the national climate plans such as NDCs.
Deaney worked under the theme of Non-state actors’ engagement, specifically within the group of Entrepreneurship. In this thematic area, it was established that lack of knowledge transfer, capacity building, investment, access to data and technology and financial support were major issues hindering non-state actors from contributing meaningfully towards climate action projects. In addition to this, Deaney as well as five other delegates (Sweden, Afghanistan, Seychelles, Alaska and Sudan) met with Per Bolund, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Climate and the Environment of Sweden. The purpose of the meeting was to share the recommendations that they have arrived at so far as well as to share their experiences from a local context and possibly synergies that can be created from Sweden with the rest of the World.
“Meeting with Minister Per Bolund of Sweden made me realize that to fight climate change, we have to do so on a collective forefront. Each and every single voice on this planet needs to be singing the same tune if we are going to make any progress with this battle.”
“It was an even more exhilarating experience to represent SIDS on such a global platform to highlight our struggles, especially in such a time like this; this event marks a milestone for us here in SVG because now I am assured that there will be listening ears.” Gellizeau said.
Nafesha and Deaney would like to express sincere thanks to the Italian Ministry of Ecological Transition, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, and the Youth4Climate team for organizing and coordinating such an historic event. Special thanks to The United Nations Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Multi-Country Office and the United Nations Country Coordinator for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the SVG Tourism Authority and the Youth Affairs Division for all the assistance they have provided, thus making the experience a reality. Thanks as well to the local media houses for publicizing and raising awareness on the event. The advocates also express gratitude to their parents, family members, friends and well-wishers for all forms of support that was given.
The outcomes of these discussions will be taken forward to COP26 where the Government of Italy and UN Youth Envoy as well as other partners and Governments will be exploring possible ways of enforcing the demands outlined in each thematic area and meeting the deadlines proposed.
However, this Youth4Climate event is not the end of the road for Vincentian youths to be involved in Climate Action. Nafesha and Deaney look forward to pushing more initiatives aimed at Climate education as well as Capacity building, and urges every youth to do their part and be involved in an Environmental Club or Movement within their community today.