Last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, received negative feedback from young people, particularly those from Africa. Eric Njuguna, a youth climate justice organiser based in Nairobi who works with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future, said the lack of ambition at COP27 was unacceptable.
Young people from around the continent are now holding a youth climate assembly ahead of the Africa Climate Summit, which they say is intended to consolidate their thoughts as African youth and ensure that their voices are not left out of the climate conversations anymore.
“The African Youth Climate Assembly has been entirely built by youth who came together to have a centralised voice of youth in the continent on climate issues. In that spirit, it has evolved to be the formal youth engagement mechanism. In the process, the assembly has championed consultations in all regions of the African continent,” the environmental scientist and a member of the United Nations Environment Program Youth Constituency Global Steering Committee said.
“These consultations will collate youth ideas, solutions, demands and positions to form the Africa Youth Climate Declaration to be presented to heads of state and governments. This assembly will be so unique as it will largely showcase the burgeoning youth population as one of the biggest resources for leapfrogging the continent’s sustainable development. We will showcase youth-led initiatives, solutions and innovations to achieve climate neutrality.”
But why are young people around the world starting and joining movements to raise their voices against climate change?
Anita Soina, 23, is a climate and environmental advocate from Kajiado County. She is also the founder of SpiceWarriors Climate and Environmental Organization. She highlights that beyond the negative impact of the climate crisis, young people are extremely worried about the condition of the planet they will inherit. The organisation’s primary focus is advocating for climate education in schools and rural areas.
“Young people are coming together in different movements so as to speak in one voice. Through the African Youth Climate Assembly, youth are showcasing their solutions, and this is a good way of showing that they are no longer just asking to have a seat at the table but are forming important components of the table.”
Elizabeth Wathuti, one of the continent’s prominent young climate and environmental activists and this year’s recipient of the 2023 Amnesty International Chair Award, says youth can better contribute to the green growth agenda across Africa by unifying their voices and showcasing solutions.
“It is for this reason that we want the Africa Youth Climate Assembly to be systemically embedded in climate frameworks of the African Union and at local government levels to ensure longevity,” Elizabeth said.
Peter Thini, an administrative assistant at CYNESA Kenya, a youth-led International NGO focusing on the voices of young people in faith-based organisations, emphasised the need for a strong climate policy and government commitment to involve youth in decision-making and implementation.
“This is crucial to address the urgent climate crisis that the world is facing. The youth are the majority in Africa, and as such, they need to be involved both in policy and grassroots actions. They will be seeking equity and justice in addressing climate challenges in a manner that advocates for solutions and prioritises the needs of vulnerable communities. They will also be asking for long-term planning and sustainable development with an aim to make sure that decisions made are future-focused, “he said.
“African youth desire that the Nairobi declaration be an outcome document for African people with endogenous ideas and African-led solutions,” Moses Khaduyu said.
“What young people require at this point are funds and opportunities to move away from advocacy and kickstart project implementation,” Cerop Soy, the SDG7 youth ambassador at SEforALL, said.