Youth climate activists are to advise UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on climate emergency as part of a new effort to bring young people into decisionmaking and planning on the crisis.
Seven young people, aged 18 to 28, are to take on roles to “provide perspectives, ideas and solutions” to Guterres, aimed at helping to scale up global climate action in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and ahead of a crunch summit next year on the climate.
“We need urgent action now, to recover better from COVID-19, to confront injustice and inequality, and address climate disruption. We have seen young people on the front lines of climate action, showing us what bold leadership looks like,” Guterres said.
The new advisory group includes: Nisreen Elsaim, a Sudanese woman who is already a junior negotiator at intergovernmental climate forums; Vladislav Kaim, an economist from Moldova; Paloma Costa, a lawyer and human rights defender from Brazil; and Archana Soreng, from India, who works on the traditional knowledge and cultural practices of indigenous people.
Starting next month, they are to provide quarterly updates to Guterres, with a particular emphasis on how the global economic recovery from COVID-19 can be aligned with the drastic cuts needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The question of how to incorporate the views of young people into the UN decisionmaking process at the annual climate negotiations is a difficult one for the UN and the UK, which will host the next round of climate talks, known as COP26.
At last year’s annual climate talks, which took place in Madrid, young activists, women and indigenous people complained that they were given little chance to be heard. At one point, activists were shut out of the conference center for most of a day after staging a brief disruption.
While teenagers and young people of all nations, groups of schoolchildren and many parents wheeling babies in buggies were much in evidence in the wider conference, the negotiating halls were the domain almost exclusively of middle-aged men in suits.
The snail’s pace of the official negotiations — which ended with a partial statement of intent and failure to clear up outstanding technical points — was thrown into stark relief by the sense of urgency and passionate advocacy of civil society, and the 500,000-strong march of people through Madrid, led by Greta Thunberg and other young people.
“We want to ensure the voices of young people are heard not only on the streets, but in the conference chambers,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN secretary-general’s envoy on youth. “The reality is that young people today will live with the repercussions [of climate breakdown]. We want to look at the lessons learned from Madrid. This is their future we are talking about.”
The COP26 summit was originally set for this autumn, but has been delayed to November next year because of the COVID-19 crisis.
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