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Opinion: Climate

Unlocking the Power Of Youth in Tackling Climate Change

Elizabeth Wathuti Elizabeth Wathuti

In an increasingly volatile world, the grip of extreme weather events tightens, unleashing droughts, floods and heat waves that wreak havoc on vulnerable communities. The repercussions are dire—lost livelihoods, food scarcity, and parched water sources. Alarming as it is, the impact of these events hits hardest on youth and children, amplifying inequalities and deepening divides. Yet, amidst this unfolding crisis, a glimmer of hope emerges from an unexpected source. Youth are stepping up to champion climate action.

Across the globe, the landscape is changing. The effects of extreme weather events disproportionately affect the young. Recent years have witnessed a surge in youth activism surrounding environmental issues, an awakening that is set to intensify as the urgency for rapid response grows.

Youth driving climate action

Integrating youth into established climate frameworks is pivotal to nurturing their involvement in shaping a sustainable future for Africa. Empowered by firsthand experiences, young individuals drive climate action forward, fuelled by a deep desire.

Youth engagement in climate change is more than a symbolic gesture—it’s a movement gaining formidable momentum. A recent UNDP People’s Climate Vote showed that nearly 70 per cent of those under 18 view climate change as a global emergency. The echoes of young voices also resounded in the COP26 meeting, where a Global Youth Position statement representing over 40,000 youth leaders called for integrating youth rights in climate change combat deals.

This movement is set to expand. The global community must harness the vitality and energy of young people in tackling climate change. The youth have surged to the forefront of the climate action movement, epitomizing passion, commitment, and innovative thinking.

With fresh perspectives and innovative solutions, youth offer a dynamic approach to shaping a sustainable world. Not only are they the torchbearers of a greener future, but they are also the generation that will inherit the consequences of climate change. Recognizing youth’s invaluable contributions, an opportunity lies ahead at the upcoming Africa Climate Summit 2023 to solidify their place as key stakeholders in climate action dialogues.

Leading at the Africa Climate Summit

The Africa Climate Summit is an opportunity to showcase Africa’s resources and solutions to the climate crisis to attract capital investments. As a precursor of this Summit, young people will host the African Youth Climate Assembly (AYCA).

With a focus on encouraging collaboration and engagement, the conference intends to unite and amplify the voices of African youth, share ideas and demonstrate youth solutions to climate change. Some initial suggestions focus on environmental sustainability. For instance, recycling waste materials and plastic bottles can help protect the environment, among many other innovative initiatives. AYCA will bring together young change-makers from more than 60 African countries and beyond. They will exhibit their work and establish connections between them and all heads of state, decision-makers, well-respected individuals, business leaders and non-state actors. 

Empowering youth

Historically, youth have been left on the sidelines in decision-making processes, which should never have been the case. The youth’s potential impact knows no age limit, as multiple studies show that education is pivotal in driving public opinion on climate change.

This revelation emphasizes the importance of incorporating climate education into curricula worldwide. Educational institutions can unlock a powerful force for change by imparting a comprehensive understanding of climate change issues.

While youth rise to the occasion, their voices often remain unheard. Media and advocacy platforms must embrace the call for inclusivity, offering a platform for these emerging leaders. By doing so, society can tap into a wellspring of creative and game-changing ideas to help us tackle global environmental challenges such as the climate crisis.

The call for climate action is universal, transcending borders and generations. Youth, driven by creativity, innovation, and boundless energy, stand poised to be the catalysts of change. Their ideas, innovations and solutions must be meaningfully embraced and supported with resources, including funding and skills, to help them advance to the next level. The stakes have never been higher. It is imperative that the world open doors, amplify voices and welcome the youth into the global conversation. While navigating the complexities of climate change, youth involvement is not just an option. It is an essential pathway toward a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

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