The Icelandic Prime Minister said climate action is vital for democracies, noting that “when we see so many people expressing their concern, leaders need to show that we have heard their concern”.
The importance of action at all levels, from individual to the global community but also including local governments, the private sector and academia, was stressed.
The Government of Iceland and the Nordic Council of Ministers sponsored a side event on ‘Youth, Climate Action and Democracy’ at the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), during which youth leaders stressed their concerns about the current pace of climate action.
During the event, which took place on 16 July 2019, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir stressed the links between climate action and democracy, and the need to “listen when we sense the urgency of youth.” She noted that the issue on the minds of youth when she was young was nuclear weapons, and said young people were the most vocal at that time. She recognized that youth of today are encouraging us to show political will to transform the concern about climate into action, and added that climate change is not just about environment: it is about the way we live, and we need to look at it holistically. She said action is also vital for democracies, noting that “when we see so many people expressing their concern, leaders need to show that we have heard their concern.”
Moderator Noora Lofstrom, Youth Representative to the Nordic Council of Ministers Expert Group on Sustainable Development, asked panelists to comment on whether they are optimistic or pessimistic about climate action. Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, said we are headed in the right direction but not at the right speed. Sigurour Loftur Thorlacius, Icelandic Youth Delegate to the HLPF, said youth are not going on climate strikes because they are optimistic, they are striking because they are concerned. Alexandria Villasenor, Climate Activist, said there is still a lot of work to do, but added that when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) calls the youth movement the greatest threat to oil, that means we are making progress. Gilbert Happy, UN Youth Delegate, Uganda, highlighted that climate change is being discussed at the highest levels, and suggested addressing consumption and production patterns and population growth.
During the discussion, participants were encouraged to watch for the announcements of commitments and initiatives during the September Climate Action Summit, and to make their own. A panelist highlighted that information on the carbon footprint of food can change individuals’ food choices. Participants asked how youth can empower the older generation to take responsibility for their inaction to address climate change, and whether cyber currencies and block change provide an opportunity to create incentives and systems to address global challenges. The importance of action at all levels, from individual to the global community but also including local governments, the private sector and academia, was stressed. The fact that climate change affects men and women and different countries differently was highlighted. Speakers also noted that climate action cannot come at the cost of social exclusion. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]