Maximpact Blog

Youth Leaders Strategize Ahead of Climate Summit COP28

Cooperation yields solutions to water scarcity. UNICEF Goodwill Ambasador Vanessa Nakate speaks with 13-year-old Adele (in pink) and her friend Graciella as they fill water jugs from taps that are part of a solar-powered water supply system in Eastern Province, Rwanda. © UNICEF/UNI414401/Ndegeya Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

BEIRUT, Lebanon, August 24, 2023 ( Sustainability News) – At a Climate Justice Camp in Lebanon next week, 450 young leaders from nearly 100 countries in the world’s most climate-stressed regions across the Global South will gather to co-create strategies that will advance an equitable climate action framework at this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP28, and beyond.

The Climate Justice Camp in Lebanon is the second edition of this global grassroots event, building on the success of the inaugural September 2022 camp in Nabuel, Tunisia. More than 40 local and global organizations have worked collaboratively this year to bring together young people from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Click here for a full list of participants. (1)

Climate Justice Camp defines itself as a platform for organizers and community builders to build relationships with other climate justice and intersectional advocates, to develop skills through daily workshops that can be applied in local work, to share best practices and lessons learned from their local organizing and to co-create and collaborate on cross-region and cross-issue strategies and tactics. 

Here, organizers from the Global South and frontline communities can build community and strengthen their efforts to achieve their visions of climate justice.

Climate activist from Pakistan Ayisha Siddiqa, 24, has made herself well known across the world. Siddiqawas named as one of TIME Magazine’s Women of the Year 2023, with 11 other outstanding women. 2023 (Photo courtesy Ayisha Siddiqa via Instagram) Posted for media use

Ayisha Siddiqa from Pakistan, a human rights and land defender and Climate Advisor to the UN Secretary General, attended the 2022 Climate Justice Camp in Tunisia. She is taking part again in Lebanon, “We are in the eye of the storm now,” she said this week. 

“The crises we once feared are accumulating and feeding off each other, while peasants, poor people, and Indigenous people are paying in life for the wealthy and privileged to ignore the issue at hand. There comes a time when you repeat the mistakes of history so often and at such a scale, you unlock a new portal of grave mistakes,” Siddqa warned. 

She posed an unanswerable question, “How many times were we warned we were unleashing a monster we were not prepared for?”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is among those who have repeatedly warned world leaders to take urgent action to reverse Earth’s rising termperature. 

As July 2023 closed after posting the hottest termperatures ever, Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that while it is not too late to “stop the worst” of the climate crisis, only “dramatic, immediate” action will be effective.

“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” Guterres said in New York, where the temperature outside soared to 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

“According to the data released today, July has already seen the hottest three-week period ever recorded; the three hottest days on record; and the highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year,” Guterres said, relying on data from the World Meteorological Organization and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

“For the entire planet, it is a disaster,” he said. “And for scientists, it is unequivocal – humans are to blame.”

The young leaders gathered at Climate Justice Camp in Lebanon will have access to an agenda of more than 100 workshops led by local leaders, organizers, and young changemakers. They will consider financing climate change prevention and mitigation, money for losses and damage already caused by the changing climate, adaptation strategies, and fossil fuel phase out, among other issues. 

One of the benefits of meeting ahead of this year’s UN climate conference is the networking. Participants aim to build climate networks across the Global South that can “work together to push for long-term political change.” 

Fatima-Zahrae Tarib from Morocco,  youth climate advocate and political science major, also returning to the camp this year, said, “During my years  working for climate justice, I often found myself standing alone or among very few individuals from the Middle East and North Africa region mostly due to the absence of an established regional youth network to unite us. During the first Climate Justice Camp, I had the opportunity to meet and forge strong bonds with others who are active on climate here. A year on, our connections have grown, our networks have expanded, and we are working together and inspiring more young people from our region to demand climate action.”

Kenzie Azmi from Egypt, Campaigner, Greenpeace Middle East & North Africa said, “Communities in the Global South are facing unprecedented social, health, and economic challenges as the drivers of climate change further deepen historical injustices. Those living in frontline regions are suffering the most from a crisis they contributed the least to. 

“The fossil fuel industry has driven increased frequency and intensity of weather and climate extremes, which disproportionately impacts communities, particularly in the Global South, that cannot mitigate them,” Azmi said. 

“We must show solidarity and demand global action for recovery and survival, which includes loss and damage financing, and system change that fast-tracks an equitable and just transition away from fossil fuels and towards  renewable energy, like solar and wind.”

Siddiqa, the human rights and land defender from Pakistan sees climate change as a ” beast” that is stifling life on Earth.

“This beast is slowly destroying life. Regions in the Middle East, which get the least attention but are arguably some of the most looted and impacted regions on Earth, first paid for fossil fuels with their life and are now paying in drought, flood, and hunger,” she mourned.

“It does not take a political scientist to understand that environmental disasters of such scale lead to political and social upheaval. The foundations of a market-based economy collapse fast and what we are left with is human suffering,” Siddiqa forecast. 

“More than ever we need people power, we need to unify across borders and regions, across cultures and languages, to fix what we have broken,” she said. “That starts with us caring for each other and the planet like it’s the most precious resource to exist.”

Young People Have the Most to Lose, and the Most to Gain

Half of the world’s population is 30 years old or younger, and this figure is expected to reach 57 percent by the end of 2030. This is the largest generation of young people in history, according to UN data. Green skills for youth ensure the success of a just transition to a greener and more sustainable world where all people – including young people – benefit equally.

Green skills include technical knowledge, expertise and abilities that enable the effective use of green technologies and processes in professional settings, enabling environmentally sustainable decision making at work and in life. 

“One of the main challenges we face as young people in accessing green jobs is the lack of clarity on career paths and training resources, as well as the lack of mentoring or support systems to develop a green career,” said Kristy Drutman, co-founder of Green Jobs Board, a platform for job seekers to find green employment opportunities.

According to the International Labor Organization, 100 million jobs can be created through the transition to sustainable energy sources and a circular economy scenario. 

Still, some existing jobs will become obsolete, and unless young people are provided with the necessary training and support systems, the benefits of the transition are unlikely to be distributed equally.

The UN agency recognizes that, “A successful just transition requires addressing the challenges young people face in accessing opportunities to develop green skills and incorporating these needs into countries’ development strategies through greater policy coordination, social dialogue, and collaboration.”

Fatou Jeng, Youth Climate Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General and founder of Clean Earth Gambia, said, “It is also very important to have more young people in climate decision-making spaces. We must see young people as key stakeholders in our transition to low-carbon economies.” 

COP28 will be the 28th UN Climate Change conference, scheduled to run from November 30 through December 12, 2023 at the Expo City, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

COP28 UAE is intended to be a milestone moment when the world will take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement. 

The first Global Stocktake will provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement in 2016. This will help align efforts on climate action, including measures that need to be put in place to bridge the gaps in progress.

The COP28 UAE Presidency says conference organizers will work to ensure that the world responds to the Global Stocktake with “a clear plan of action.”

The COP28 UAE Presidency has its duties and its aspirations too. “We are at a halfway point. It has been 7 years since Paris, with 7 years to go to 2030,” the Presidency explains on the COP28 website. <> “We must respond to the facts. We need to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 and course correct on adaptation, finance and loss and damage. We will deliver a transformational COP of action. A COP for all.”

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell welcomes the participation of young people in climate change conferences, saying, “A clearly positive – and very welcome – trend in recent years is that youth attendance at UN climate change conferences continues to grow.” Stiell reaffirmed his commitment to work for more meaningful participation of young people in the UN climate change process, and invited all government Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to join in.