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‘Be bold, be ambitious’ Secretary-General poses the climate action challenge to young people

17 November 2017

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has challenged the youth of the Commonwealth to tackle climate change through bold innovation.

Speaking at a side event of COP23 in Bonn this week she said: “The very survival of our planet is dependent on your innovation. Be bold and ambitious, and let us all re-commit to tackling climate change through youth-led change.”

Youth climate leaders from over 20 Commonwealth countries attended the Commonwealth Intergenerational Climate Dialogue event, organised by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH).

The event aims to drive collaboration between young people and representatives of governments, international organisations and society. Government representatives from Australia and Seychelles participated in the panel, alongside Secretary-General Scotland and representatives from Climate Action Network (CAN) International.

Listen to Michael Logie, a young climate activist from Roots Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago as he kicked off the dialogue with a Powerful Climate Awareness Poem

Opening the dialogue, Karuna Rana, coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network from Mauritius, presented their initiative #Prep4COP, a climate change diplomacy and advocacy training programme for youth climate leaders from the most climate-vulnerable countries.

She said: “After the success of two pilots since 2016, we’re now expanding our training in the Asia, Pacific, Caribbean and Africa region to reach a wider range of youth in 2018. We are also working on a year-long fellowship and mentorship programme to have our trained youth paired up with their Governments on climate change work.”

#Prep4COP aims to create a community of well-informed and empowered young climate negotiators, lobbyists and advocates who will confidently hold their governments accountable to the Paris Agreement and tangible climate action.

Elizabeth Buchan, a policy officer from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, that has funded the development of the SIDS Youth Climate Advocacy Toolkit through the Direct Aid Program, emphasised the key role of climate change education in all levels of school systems to equip future generations with skills and capacity to address climate change issues.

She also highlighted the Australian Government’s contribution, also through the Direct Aid Program, for two training workshops in Mauritius and Seychelles that built young people’s capacity in climate change diplomacy and advocacy.

Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles' permanent representative to the United Nations and ambassador to the United States, handed credit to four Seychellois youth who undertook the #Prep4COP training and are now part of their official COP23 delegation.

He said: “We have allowed youth to learn and represent Seychelles as negotiators as they’ve demonstrated their capacity to self-organize and support the Seychelles delegation.”

Wael Hmaidan, the executive director of CAN International, the largest network of International and national NGOs, affirmed their commitment to formalise their partnership with CYCN on the #Prep4COP programme.

The dialogue ended with the launch and presentation of the Pan-Commonwealth edition of the SIDS Youth Advocacy Toolkit, a production of SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH), in partnership with CYCN, the Commonwealth Secretariat and Australia Direct Aid Program.

The toolkit is a key resource for information on the science, impacts, negotiations and youth advocacy of climate change, in the context of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and beyond, in a youth-friendly language. It also features chapters on the blue economy, climate finance and regenerative development.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General had also had the chance to welcome and host a mentorship session with around 15 youth climate leaders representing all regions of the Commonwealth, members of CYCN earlier during COP23.

The Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network first began in 2009 as an initiative to promote youth perspectives in the work of the Commonwealth on climate change. The network now convenes over 100 organisations and over 600 young climate leaders, supporting grassroots initiatives.