Blog | 07 Aoû, 2023

Youth as Agents of Change for a Sustainable Future

This article addresses the escalating threat of climate change and its disproportionate impact on young people. It highlights successful youth-led initiatives and emphasizes the essential role of youth as stakeholders and change agents for sustainability.

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Photo: Li-An Lim on Unsplash

Climate change poses an escalating threat, and its long-term impacts disproportionately affect young people. As the situation worsens, today's youth will bear the consequences of the present actions and inactions. The urgency of climate change is underscored by data from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which reveals that a child born in 2020 is twice as likely to experience wildfires, 2.6 times more prone to droughts, 2.8 times more exposed to river floods, and a staggering 6.8 times more susceptible to heat waves than someone born in 1960. In light of these challenges, including youth voices is imperative in environmental decisions and supporting initiatives to build a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future. This article delves into the pivotal role of today’s youth in shaping environmental policy and driving grassroots initiatives. It emphasizes the necessity of integrating the concerns and viewpoints of youth into decision-making.

Youth Initiatives for a Sustainable Future

With young people accounting for 16 percent of the global population, they are becoming a driving force in advocating for a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. Their growing involvement in climate change initiatives showcases their transformative power of advocacy and action. Notably, youth-led movements like "Fridays for Future" have succeeded in placing climate change at the heart of global policy discussions. Additionally, initiatives such as the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, have significantly contributed to shaping crucial policies such as the Global Biodiversity Framework. Moreover, young people are also bringing about tangible changes at the grassroots level. Some examples include "Save the Beach" in the Maldives, a movement that has helped in conserving and preserving the beaches and reefs of the country, and the Arab Youth Council for Climate Change, which aims to support youth climate action and engage young Arabs in developing innovative and sustainable solutions to the climate change challenge. 

These initiatives have reaffirmed young people’s capacity to act as agents of change in environmental advocacy and action. To sustain and enhance youth-led initiatives, decision-makers must introduce structural changes and create inclusive platforms at all levels. Beyond inclusion, concrete support, such as access to financial resources, mentorship, and access to networks, is essential for their success. Nurturing an environment where young people feel valued, empowered, and heard in their environmental endeavors is not only morally imperative but also crucial for the long-term sustainability of our planet. The Student Energy’s Guided Projects programme stands as a successful example of providing both financial and technical assistance to youth-led initiatives. 

Youth as Key Stakeholders 

In today’s world, young people’s contribution is significant in combating climate change as they bring unique perspectives and innovative ideas. Their inclusion, particularly in policy-making, brings a much-needed long-term perspective that is often overlooked. They can also play a crucial role in promoting policies that consider the interests of future generations, thus ensuring that development objectives are aligned with environmental sustainability. Additionally, they can act as essential watchdogs, scrutinizing government activities, ensuring they meet their environmental commitments, and pushing for enhanced transparency and inclusivity. On the action side, youths are in a unique position to drive tangible changes at the grassroots level. Their familiarity with technology helps them to leverage digital tools in taking initiatives, running environmental campaigns, and monitoring of local ecosystems. They can also play a vital role in engaging the community, and nurturing a collective sense of responsibility towards nature conservation. 

Conclusion

Young people are important stakeholders in the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Their engagement at local, national, and international levels is vital for building resilience and developing effective adaptation policies. Their voices are not just whispers of tomorrow; they are the echoes shaping today's environmental discourse and action. Empowering youth-led initiatives, supporting their voices, and providing them necessary resources will unlock their transformative potential. As we celebrate the UN International Youth Day, let us acknowledge and embrace the power of young people to create a better world for all.

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