Yes, there is hope among the youth


Exactly a month ago, COP27 or the 2022 United Nations Climate Conference (aka 27th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), concluded without a “consensus” — supporters say that there were big strides especially on the aspect of “loss-and-damage fund” (something like a financial help for climate vulnerable countries). But there were critics who noted the lackluster response to address urgent concerns (that COP is all about talk and no action).

Whatever the outcome of the COP27 will surely be felt for years to come. And hopefully, we will not regret our actions (or inaction) today for the planet.

Ahead of the COP27, there was an allied event called COY17. COY stands for Conference of Youth, which was spearheaded by various socio-civic organizations. Young climate advocates from more than 140 countries, including the Philippines, also gathered at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt to come up with a “Global Youth Statement” — a policy document containing inputs from young leaders across the world on the different issues, challenges, and action points they believe should be included to advance climate action.

Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay was one of the Filipino delegates for the COY17.  Ferth, the deputy manager and programs lead of the Climate Reality Project Philippines, is also vice chairperson and sectoral representative of young people from disaster-stricken areas of the United Nations Youth Advisory Board (UNYAB).

With COY participants mostly in the age range of 15 to 29 years old, Ferth was personally in Egypt to witness the proceedings and to call the world’s attention to the plight of Filipinos who are most vulnerable to climate change.

Ferth shared with us the “demands of COY17 from COP27” and I want to use this column to highlight some of the relevant points. After all, it is the youth who will inherit this planet. Their concerns are not trivial and should be given utmost attention (and action!) before it’s too late.

“From heat waves across Europe to droughts across Africa and massive flooding in Asia, the past year of extreme weather events have served as another visible wake-up call for humanity,” the Global Youth Statement highlighted, stressing the fact that “political leaders should take concrete actions.”

“We have no more time to lose. Our future literally depends on it,” the text reads.

I selected some points that were included in the Global Youth Statement and I like to share it with you:

  • Arts, Culture, and Heritage: A comprehensive solid legal framework must be in place to ensure the protection of rights and intellectual properties so we can collectively enhance climate education and broaden reach.
  • Climate Justice and Human Rights: Parties should respect, protect, and promote all human rights when designing climate policies and strategies.
  • Food and Agriculture: Parties must promote agroecology as a sustainable pathway toward a robust and resilient food system, support policies, which integrate sustainable consumption and promote green jobs at global, national, and sub-national levels.
  • Health: Policy development at the intersection of climate change and health must be accelerated via knowledge transfer and global research, leveraging the potential of digital technologies. This must encompass different healthcare sectors, including infectious diseases control, food system, mental health, and disaster management.
  • Loss and Damage: Loss and damage must be annually and permanently included in the COP negotiation agenda. At the same time, COP must establish a loss and damage financing facility with effective, transparent, and grant-based resources, that are decoupled from adaptation and mitigation funding. The Santiago Network mandate must be effectively operationalized and sufficiently financed.
  • Nature and Biodiversity: Any restoration measures must be designed carefully after assessing the pre-existing ecology of the target ecosystem, with outcomes being properly monitored against transparent criteria.
  • Oceans: Ocean-related impacts must be taken into account in loss and damage negotiations. Increased attention must be directed to funding and implementing nature-based infrastructure for coastal buffers to mitigate coastal damage.
  • Technology and Innovation: Earmarking of finance to support young innovators and increase technology transfer targets must be established to foster more impactful and long-lasting change in receiving countries.
  • Water: Local, regional, and global participation of youth must be established and institutionalized in the water and climate sector for knowledge exchange, networking, innovation and technological interventions, and capacity building.
Ferth shared that the COY17 featured 68 workshops, panel discussions, and side events before COP27.

“The recent COP27 marked the first time that young people were provided with a dedicated space to host dialogues and discussions on global climate action.  The key findings of the policy document were introduced via two roundtables under the youth-led Climate Forum on Young and Future Generations Day. This was also the first time that the ‘Global Youth Statement’ was directly sent to the COP presidency’s action agenda where youth representatives, ministers, and negotiators were able to discuss the expectations and the demands outlined by global youth climate activists,” said Ferth.

During COY17, organizers highlighted the importance of linking youth voices with COP processes.

“While most policy conversations are still happening without young people, many youth climate advocates around the world are speaking out to join the call for accountability and climate justice,” he added. “The unified demands of the global youth will ensure an inclusive approach to climate governance that acknowledges the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on our communities.”

Through the years, it was always the adults who were seated at the negotiation tables, with the youth just relegated to the “children’s desks.” But considering the inroads done by the participants of COY17 such as Ferth, the youth can now sit side-by-side with the adults — with their voices heard loud and clear for the first time. After all, as I’ve said earlier, it is the youth who will inherit this planet.

For Ferth, this is just the beginning of a thousand-step journey; there are more misconceptions to shatter and hearts to win over: “With the 18th COY and 28th COP happening in the United Arab Emirates next year, we must recognize the role that youth leaders play in our climate movement and respond to their demands and needs.”

There is hope in the youth even amid the hopelessness. We pray that it's just not too late.