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Karuna Rana is from Mauritius, an island state in the Indian Ocean. It is one of the Commonwealth’s small and vulnerable members. Ms Rana and other young people from those countries understand better than anyone else on earth, the threat of global warming. They are the people who are witnessing its effects most directly. They are the ones who will have to deal with the rising seas and extreme weather events that threaten their islands’ existence.
As Co-ordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN), Ms Rana attended our three-day Youth Forum in Malta in November 2015. She was there to call for global action on climate change, and help coordinate the environment agenda of the forum.
The theme of the forum was “Adding Global Value…#WhatNext?”. Youth delegates explored the key issues facing their generation in order to produce policy recommendations and an action plan.
On the last day of the forum, Deodat Maharaj, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, encouraged youth delegates to be an “integral part” of the solution to this global issue. He asked them to reflect on the commitments that they would be willing to make.
Mr Maharaj said: “Despite bearing the least responsibility for accelerating climate change, young people will face its gravest consequences. Recognising the seriousness and urgency of the threat, an ambitious agreement in Paris is needed to ensure that current and future generations are spared from the harshest effects of climate change.”
'We cannot wait on governments. We have to act now. Please support your brothers and sisters in the Pacific who are facing this very real threat each day. Climate change is real'. - Christina Jillian Keziah, a youth delegate from Papua New Guinea
The call for a sharper focus on climate change issues came as international negotiations took place leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December of 2015.
Ms Rana presented the key recommendations from a report developed by young climate experts from across the Commonwealth in preparation for CHOGM 2015 and COP21. Participants also heard speeches by David Rupa of 350.org in Papua New Guinea, and by Simone Borg, Malta’s Ambassador on Climate Change.
Christina Jillian Keziah, a youth delegate from Papua New Guinea, gave an outstanding speech. She made a passionate appeal to her colleagues to take the lead in addressing climate change. The audience responded with a standing ovation.
“We cannot wait on governments. We have to act now. Please support your brothers and sisters in the Pacific who are facing this very real threat each day. Climate change is real,” said Ms Keziah.
Other youth delegates added their voices to the call for urgent action. Cindy Chng, a youth delegate from Singapore, said: “We should leverage this opportunity to put concerns about the environment and sustainable development at the forefront of leaders’ minds. We must also empower people from different societies to think and act creatively, by moving into different spaces in the green economy.”
Jean Paul Brice Affana, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN), urged fellow delegates: “We have to be inspirational. Inspiring a new generation is the only way we can achieve something. It is time to do research and inform ourselves – because we cannot be part of the solution if we do not know what the problem is.”
Other progress with the CYCN in 2015-2017
The CYCN was established in 2009 by 150 environmental youth leaders from across the Commonwealth. In November 2016, it hosted an intergenerational dialogue at COP22 (22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change). This was to mark “Young Future Generations Day” and highlight the importance of the Paris Agreement.
During 2016/17, the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) and the CYCN jointly designed, developed and launched the Blue Green Economy Toolkit. They did the same with Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Youth Advocacy Toolkit as well.
They used the toolkits to train youth leaders from small states on how to engage with the COP22 processes and how to lead action on climate advocacy. In addition, the CYC and the CYCN initiated and conducted an Ocean Governance Internship pilot programme in Mauritius and Seychelles that exposed over 30 young people to blue economy employment.
'Inspiring a new generation is the only way we can achieve something'. - Jean Paul Brice Affana, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network.
Following the Youth Forum, leaders shared their recommendations with the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Malta. The CYCN and thematic youth networks then went on to implement their action plan over the the next two years (2015-17).