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Members of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network with the Secretary-General

Young people are innovators, designers, and facilitators for clean energy solutions

13 November 2017

Ms. Shamoy Hajare is the founder and CEO of Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship (JSSE), and is passionate about the role of young people in strengthening the blue and green economies through enterprise development. She is the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, Caribbean Region, 2016. She is also a member of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network.

Too often, young people are given a platform, like that of COP23, to share their stories and concerns, but their recommendations hardly progress to anything more than sharing.

My childhood story includes taking long walks on Alligator Pond Beach in Jamaica. I remember my sister and I racing to Little Ochi seafood to indulge in the mouth-watering Escovitch fish prepared at the restaurant.

Walking on the shore was as fun as it was therapeutic as we felt the powdery-soft sand between our toes. Those days for us were sacred as we basked in the connection with nature. Fast-forward 15 years and the shoreline has completely disappeared due to sea level rise and severe hurricanes that sometimes completely ravaged the local restaurant.

In addition to that, there is an ever-increasing shortage of fish stock, which causes a loss of livelihoods for fisherfolk and their families. As I reflect on my experiences with nature growing up, I now think about my niece who does not have the opportunity to experience the same joy I did as a child, due to the current dystopic situations resulting from climate change. However, this experience is only a miniscule example of the raging threats ahead as small island developing states (SIDs) continue to decrease in landmass due to sea level rise, coupled with severe floods, droughts, and famine in disparate nations.

These harsh realities are profound indications of the need to protect the environment to safeguard the interest of present and future generations. As discussions at COP23 begin to unfold, the potential of young people to contribute to realising the environmental targets of the sustainable development goals is one that should not be taken for granted.

The reduce growth and declines in coal use since 2011 and consistent efforts to decouple economic growth from CO2 emissions highlight the progress that have been made to close the emission gap. However, according to a 2017 UNEP report, the world’s emission gap currently sits at 11-13 giga-tonnes CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) to get to 2 degrees Celsius trajectory and a gap of 16-19 GtCO2e to get to 1.5 degrees Celsius trajectory. This means that one of the core objectives for COP23 negotiations is being able to set a strong foundation for 2018, which requires Commonwealth nations to indicate their readiness to meet the requirements of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of global warming and in many instances 1.5 degrees.

Here in Bonn, is an opportunity to garner the knowledge, ideas, and talents of young Commonwealth citizens to thoroughly engage in the strategic plans to combat climate change. Young people have the potential to make tangible constructive progress towards adapting to future threats, disrupting everyday risk traps, and strengthening blue and green economies. They are key innovators, designers, and facilitators for the development and implementation of clean energy solutions and negative emission technologies, all of which are needed to close the current emission gap and making the Paris agreement operational.