2022 in Review: Youth in Climate Action
By Sadia Jahan Rothi, Board Director, Eco-Network; Environment and Climate Advocate; CEO’s Youth Advisor, Global Center on Adaptation and YECAP Fellow
COP27 was not only an opportunity to fight for climate justice, but also to learn how nations are working to fight the climate crisis.
For me, 2022 was a year of achievement. I started my journey with the Youth Empowerment in Climate Action (YECAP) as a participant of “YECAP Climate Action Week” and was selected to be a YECAP Fellow – not to mention my participation at COP27. I have been dreaming of attending COP ever since I learned about it. I never knew my dream would become a reality.
COP is the annual “Conference of Parties” where representatives from all over the world attend to discuss climate change. COP27 took place in the coastal city of Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. As this was my first COP, I was both very excited and overwhelmed, especially about being at the venue in-person. I loved how the Egyptian Presidency did not only commit to the adoption of the sustainable practice, but also tried to implement and prioritize it across the venue and within the city by ensuring sustainable mode of transportation (electric bus), reuse of water, use of renewable energy, and efficiency and adoption of waste management process. Though the Presidency tried to make use of the energy efficiently, at the same time, the venue had air conditioning and the city was decorated with thousands of lights, consuming more energy.
My first week at COP27 was great. For me, it is not only an opportunity to fight for climate justice, but also to learn how nations are working to fight the climate crisis. I attended side events related to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), energy and health. I also participated in a few of those side events as a speaker.
One of the side events was on, “Transforming Awareness to Action: The Role of Asia-Pacific Youth in Climate Action” organized by YECAP at the SDG Pavilion. As a YECAP Fellow, I had the chance to share my climate journey and how I became a part of the YECAP community with other young climate leaders during the event.
Furthermore, I received the opportunity to be a youth panelist at another side event on “Experiences on Integrated Approach of Adaptation and Mitigation in Bangladesh” at the Bangladesh Pavilion, organized by Friendship. It was my first time speaking at an event alongside Mr. Shahab Uddin, MP, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Ms. Habibun Nahar M.P. Honorable Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; HRH Princess Marie-Esméralda, Princess of Belgium; Founder of NGO, among other panelists. During this event, I shared my climate story and emphasized on the urgent action of the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) for the capacity building of youth by adopting an integrated approach.
COP27 Presidency’s vision is to move from negotiation and plan for implementation. The agreement to set up a Loss and Damage fund is surely a huge milestone, indicating that the demands and actions are moving towards implementation. But there is no agreement yet on where the finance should come from or how it should be provided.
For the first time in COP history, the Presidency has appointed COP27 President Youth Envoy and a dedicated pavilion, “Children & Youth Pavilion” as a home for young people from all around the world for 14 days. More than 40 events were held in this space to help to amplify youth voices. As a result, youth have got the official recognition as stakeholders to design and implement climate policies under ACE Action Plan. Like the COP27 Presidency, the Bangladesh government has also ensured youth inclusion. In 27 years, the first-ever youth-led side event took place in the Bangladesh pavilion.
The presidency ensured the youth inclusion at COP27, but on the other hand, they lacked representation of young women on their team. We know climate justice cannot be ensured without gender inclusion. There were some issues at COP 27, but one problem I noticed was that many adults did not take the youth seriously. They thought all young people did was protest. My post-event questions were completely ignored while those from the journalists were acknowledged.
I think it is very important to include young people and future generations in negotiations and in the decision making processes. It is us who will not think about the geopolitics and profits of our country, it is us who will care about our one and only Earth and future. If we do not cut the greenhouse gas emission, no matter how much we compensate, there will be more loss of human lives, biodiversity and we will suffer the existential crisis.