COP 23 Presidency’s Grand Coalition Supports Youth at UN Climate Negotiations
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

The COP Presidency is supporting the push by young people for a stronger role in helping to implement the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa reiterated the UNFCCC’s support for the COY as “a bridge to all COP 23 delegates”.

A side event, titled ‘Intergenerational Inquiry,’ provided a platform for youth and decision makers to reflect on how young people can enhance implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

10 November 2017: At the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UNFCCC, which is taking place in Bonn, Germany, Young and Future Generations Day celebrated youth power and participation. The 13th Conference of Youth (COY13) convened prior to the COP. Youth is also the focus of multiple side events taking place in the margins of the two-week Conference. High-level youth briefings, organized with key figures from the UNFCCC process, inform youth delegates on the negotiations and respond to their questions.

The COP 23 Fijian Presidency is supporting the push by young people for more climate ambition and a stronger role in helping shape climate policies and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs. As part of its work on the ‘Grand Coalition’ of actors, which aims to engage all stakeholders and recognizes the pivotal role of children in climate action, the Presidency is focusing on education and how to translate youth-related concerns into funded work programmes. UNFCCC Article 6 (Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)) also focuses on education, training and public awareness on climate change and promotes youth participation in the climate process. [UNFCCC Press Release on Fijian Presidency and Youth] [Action for Climate Empowerment]

COY13 convened from 2-4 November, under the theme, ‘Talanoa Mada – Youth Accelerating Climate Action,’ which aimed to connect the COY with the COP 23 Presidency and with the perspective of small island developing States (SIDS). ‘Talanoa Mada’ is the Fijian practice of inclusive dialogue through “unconstrained mutual storytelling,” open and honest discussions, and the generation of empathy and sympathy. Over 1,300 participants from 114 countries took part in over 200 workshops on such topics as climate politics, sustainability, climate justice and activism, and the transition of societies into a low-carbon future. The event focused on: a greater role for youth in national and international climate policy; education and capacity building to further mobilize and empower youth to tackle climate change, notably in support of the Paris Agreement; and opportunities to showcase young people’s local initiatives on climate action and to strengthen youth networks.

Speaking during the event, COP President and Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama promised to carry the message from youth at COY13 to world leaders at COP 23. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa reiterated the UNFCCC’s support for the COY as “a bridge to all COP 23 delegates.” She pointed to new guidelines to promote more access for young people during UNFCCC meetings, and expressed her personal support for the youth agenda as a source of “ideas and enthusiasm that can move communities and countries.”

COY13 was organized by the German Youth Alliance for Future Energies, Project Survival Pacific and many youth volunteers, in cooperation with Youth NGOs (YOUNGO). The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and others provided financial support. Bonn Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan served as patron. The COY, which was initiated in 2005 by YOUNGO, is held annually, immediately prior to the COP, in order to give youth a voice during the COP negotiations, and stimulate discussions about how youth can advance climate politics and action. [UNFCCC Press Release on COY 13] [COY 13 Website] [COY 13 Press Release] [COY 13 Blog on Talanoa Mada Theme]

Young and Future Generations Day, held on 9 November under the theme ‘Youth Uniting for Climate Action Further, Faster, Together,’ included youth-led side events, workshops and activities that aimed to capture the critical role that youth play in contributing to innovative and ambitious solutions to climate change. During a Youth Forum, panelists shared their views on the role of youth in combating climate change, how it affects their home countries and what is being done about it. A press conference showcased an innovative youth dialogue process, which includes Youth Ambassadors, and elements for successful and inclusive dialogues.

A number of side events convened on the Day. A side event titled, ‘Youth Engagement in Climate: Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) and Smart Education,’ spotlighted the CSA Youth Network (CSAYN), which aims to change the mindset of youth, as youth do not always value agriculture as a livelihood option and abandon the countryside for urban areas. The event highlighted how CSA increases food production, reduces greenhouse (GHG) emissions and enhances the sector’s resilience to climate change.

A side event titled, ‘Asian Youth Dialogue on the New Climate Regime and Youth Perspectives,’ provided an opportunity to share youth perspectives on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to encourage their implementation by governments. The event introduced implementation policies from the Republic of Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan, following which youth commented on the policies, and the roles and activities of youth regarding the policies.

A side event titled, ‘Intergenerational Inquiry,’ organized by the UNFCCC and YOUNGO, provided a platform for youth and decision makers to reflect on how young people can enhance implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. Participants discussed, inter alia: the impacts that climate change has on cattle farmers in Kenya, with more severe droughts impacting livestock and food security; communities organizing their marine resources in Solomon Islands, so that “the fishery has a future”; and the results of COY13.

The closing session showcased innovative and creative actions children and youth are taking to address climate change. Nazhat Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN, invited COP 23 participants to interact with youth, noting the creative mediums and innovations they have employed to raise awareness and act on climate change. [Young and Future Generations Day Website] [Young and Future Generations Day Agenda]

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We invite students and young professionals to propose short (700-900 words) blog posts to be published on the Generation 2030 column in the SDG Knowledge Hub. We especially encourage case studies of SDG implementation or reviews of implementation data related to one or more of the SDGs. To explore this opportunity further, please contact sdgs@iisd.org.


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