On December 3, 2015, hundreds of young people gathered at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) to join leaders and share their voices on climate change. The day was marked as the ‘Young and Future Generations Day,’ a chance for young people to have a seat at the table and share how they would define our future. Young people today are growing up with effects of climate challenge and this immediate threat makes them more leaders of today rather than tomorrow.
The past month was full of climate-related stories in the media, including speeches by the Pope in Washington DC and New York, the joint China-US statement, and the announcement of China’s cap-and-trade scheme starting 2017.
We may still hear about differences of opinion on what is causing climate change and what needs to be done and by whom, but it is happening, and that efforts to resolve these differences are made in conventions and meetings, in houses of Congress, in media or public debate.
Last month, I drove through dust on bumpy dirt roads from Nairobi to visit the Oloirowua Primary School in Suswa, 140 kilometers northeast of the Kenya capital. The school sits on the vast savannah near Hell’s Gate National Park, an area with substantial geothermal potential.
At the school, classes are being taught outdoors and kids sit under a few trees with notebooks in their laps. Their old and crumbling school will soon be replaced by a new building that will accommodate 200 students. Their faces light up when they talk about the new school, and I feel thankful for being able to work with projects like this where I see the direct effects of our work on kids’ education.
As the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and its stakeholders from the private sector, government, the multilateral development banks, civil society and indigenous peoples’ groups gathered in Istanbul to participate in the first CIF Private Sector Forum, their attention is increasingly focused on synergies between the private and public in addressing climate change. There is a growing understanding among both governments and private sector players - from investors to small project developers to large utility companies - that gains are much larger if common strategies are developed and new partnerships are forged.
Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, opened the day with an energetic keynote address, provocative and positive, setting up the stage for the day by announcing the scope of challenge and opportunities for dynamic, and pragmatic climate investment strategies. Sessions on private sector adaptation, and business attitudes towards climate risk followed. The `Matching Expectations' panel brought together indispensable partners, the triangle of project developers-investors-policy makers, into discussion of regulations, fund raising challenges and investors' expectations and requirements.
The day also showcased five CIF projects, beginning with the highlight of the Morocco Ouarzazate CSP project, a unique PPP model, presented by Paddy Padmanathan, the CEO of the project's developer ACWA Power.
Consensus emerged that the private sector will deliver much of the innovation and finance required for investments in low carbon technologies and climate resilience in rich and poor communities alike. With scientists warning that we are not on a path to limit global warming to 2° or less, there is growing urgency to identify effective ways in which the public and private sectors can best work together to tackle and adapt to climate change. The CIF provide a platform for learning by doing to develop such models for effective collaboration and share experiences among the network of CIF recipient and contributor countries.
Last week, I headed to Ibi Bateke plateau in the interiors of Democratic Republic Republic of Congo (DRC) to see the country’s first project approved and registered under the Kyoto Protocol. We set off on a long winding road taking us quickly from Kinshasa to the Ibi plateau – 150 kms away from the daily hustle of the over 9 million inhabitants of Kinshasa. Ibi is characteristically thinly forested, partly a result of the poor porous soils. Despite the vast lands, the majority of the land is uninhabited with villages dotting the landscape.
The community is replanting its degraded forests with trees like acacia, pines and eucalyptus that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, allowing the project to generate carbon credits which are purchased by the World Bank’s BioCarbon fund. This project is a trail blazer as some of the revenue from the sale of carbon credits is providing basic health care and schools, offering an integrated vision of development.
As we entered the village, we met a group of children walking home. Among them was one older kid who chaperoned the smaller ones - the youngest must have been about five. They chattered enthusiastically about their new school. The school was negotiated as one of the benefits for the participatory management of the plantation. Gautier Tschikaya a resident who was accompanying us told us that one day they were driving around on the plantation and found a whole bunch of kids squatting in an abandoned building so that they would not have to walk the 10+ km every day to get to school. At that point, they built a dormitory for those kids and we visited it - situated just below the school now.
I was part of a ``historic’’ moment in Xcaret, on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico, earlier this month. Here representatives of indigenous organizations worldwide had gathered together with government representatives of various governments, including Bolivia, Panama, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bangladesh, and Peru to prepare a strategy for giving voice to the concerns of the indigenous groups in the COP-16 negotiations in Cancun in November.
This was the first time a country has supported indigenous peoples in preparing for a COP, normally dominated by policy wonks and government negotiators. Historically, relations between indigenous groups and states have been confrontational in nature; in Latin America in particular, there has been a history of violent events, including the long civil war in Chiapas. The process of inclusion, however, is fundamental in many Latin American countries, as indigenous peoples form a significant demographic group─15 million in Peru, 12 million in Mexico, and about 6 million in Bolivia and Guatemala.
Against this backdrop, it was heartening in Xcaret to see, indigenous leaders and government officials, jointly preparing a strategy to voice their preoccupation and concerns over issues that will come with climate change and have the potential to affect all groups. In the meeting, indigenous peoples presented themselves as first and foremost “citizens” of those countries, even though different from the mainstream. This time, the governments were actually listening to their voices. It is becoming increasingly recognized that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Climate change is expected to exacerbate existing inequity faced by indigenous communities in the form of political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, and ultimately their distinct ways of life.
The perceived communications fiasco of the last few months about what is known and not known about the science of climate change led one of my students, Andy Lubershane, to try a different approach—animation. His effort is meant to communicate in a clear, humorous, memorable way the reasons why we need to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.
Andy is one of 160 Master’s students using the World Development Report 2010 as a textbook on Environmental Assessment at the University of Michigan.
The author, Kwasi Owusu Gyeabour, won third place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. He answered the question “How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.
“There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” -James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) Nobody Knows My Name, "Faulkner and Desegregation”
It is a privilege to be called on to share ideas on issues of our time, issues that can be solved through youthful action. In my essay, “Greening the Ghanaian Youth” I proposed several ideas that would help tackle climate change. Here is a sample of the ones I consider most practical.
Youth action at the community level is the most potent force in our fight against rapid climate change. So I proposed the establishment of a Green Sector Mutual Fund. This community-based fund will invest in firms that operate in the green/environmental sector. Now I consider this feasible because I have friends who have established mutual funds such as the University of Ghana Campus Mutual Fund which have turned out successful. The success of a fund mostly depends on factors such as advertising and the prestige and market reach of the fund managers. Most asset management firms these days would jump at the opportunity to manage something ethical just to create a sense of social responsibility and goodwill.
The author, Sophie Bathurst of Australia, won first place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. She answered the question "How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.
|Photo © Sophie Bathurst|
My vision for Australia is that of a nation where healthy people live in a healthy environment. I believe that Australia's future social and economic prosperity as well as the livelihoods of our Pacific Island neighbours depend on our response to the climate challenge. An effective response demands the engagement of all sectors of society and involves both responsible adaptation to existing environmental problems as well as the mitigation of further climate change.
If we ignore the warnings, we will not only damage our precious ecosystems and lose our water resources but will also have to contend with disruption of services; decline in key industries such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries; and increased health problems for society’s most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and remote indigenous communities.
If we think long-term and embrace the challenge, however, climate change can present an opportunity for youth. It can contribute to the establishment of an energy sector based on renewable and clean fuels, the development of world-class research centres and the implementation of globally recognised education programs in sustainability.
Education lies at the core of an initiative that I proposed recently. I envision a series of new projects for primary schools that will be led by a 'Green Taskforce' composed mainly of unemployed youth. The projects are designed to build confidence and to equip young people with some of the skills required for permanent employment in environmental trades. At the same time, these projects will create a culture of ecological awareness and healthy living within primary schools and teach students to reduce their carbon footprint.