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Beyond 2030: Youth Taking Charge of the Environment

Beyond 2030: Youth Taking Charge of the Environment

“The consequences of failing to sensibly and effectively manage the environment are profound and far-reaching”- Antonio Guterres (2017)

World Environment Day is commemorated each year on June 5th. The theme for 2018,  #BeatPlasticPollution, is a reminder of how plastic pollution permeates every aspect of our lives, but also highlights the importance of environmental care, protection and conservation. The fact that plastic pollution has detrimental health, social and economic effects compels us to think innovatively about how to address it. With today’s youth population (15-24 years) at 1.2 billion and further growth anticipated for the near future, investments in youth must be channeled to enable them to adopt sustainable methods for environmental protection. More than ever before there is a need to start early by imparting awareness and a sense of environmental stewardship among the youth of today and future generations. Read more facts about plastic pollution here .

What are youth doing to protect the environment?

As in previous years, youth around the globe are seizing the opportunity to commemorate World Environment Day by initiating awareness events and sharing ideas with family and community members on how to protect the environment. Youth are increasingly using the power of their collective voice to advocate, lobby and lead campaigns towards adopting environmentally-friendly practices and policies. As more youth grow up in a world characterized by advanced technologies and information sharing, many are harnessing this opportunity to create innovative, sustainable environmental solutions.

One such young leader is a recipient of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Champions of the Earth award (2017), which she earned for using her experience as a biologist to bring back the flora and fauna disappearing in her country of Ecuador. Beginning in her native city of Quito, a city often condensed by air pollution, Liliana introduced new, cost-effective environmental solutions. She focused her research study by identifying and cataloguing native plant species that could simultaneously adapt to urban environments and be resilient to climate change. In the process, she reduced air pollution and vulnerability to natural disasters by encouraging greater use of native plants in the green rooftops of the densely-urbanized city.

More youth continue to adopt both conventional and unconventional methods to contribute to environmental care and protection. Youth have already begun mobilizing their peers on social media or other online interactions to discuss, debate and advocate for better environmental protection. Youth efforts range from local initiatives to international campaigns, some influential enough to reach policymakers and national leaders. As more youth connect they are also using virtual platforms to educate, raise awareness, expand outreach and share knowledge. Additionally, youth are taking advantage of the availability and accessibility of information and technology to engage in all levels of environmental governance, especially towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Likewise, youth are instrumental in advocating for the consideration of the SDGs in World Environment Day and beyond, like that of SDG 15, “Life on Land,” which resolves to restore and conserve the earth’s terrestrial ecosystems, forests, and biodiversity.

According to the World Programme of Action on Youth (WPAY), youth participation is crucial, but supporting youth participation and engagement in environmental preservation requires a holistic and inclusive approach. Youth are willing to take the lead to meaningfully engage in platforms related to the protection of the environment, at the local, national or global level. However, to harness their talents and innovations, there is need to ensure that youth are equal partners and torchbearers in creating and implementing the goals toward environmental sustainability.

To commemorate World Environment Day 2018, we have asked youth to contribute short articles on different aspects of the environment. The articles demonstrate how youth can proactively contribute their talents and time through education and advocacy toward environmental protection.  Further, the articles show the inter-relatedness of the environment to everything – for instance, that environmental conditions can determine clean water accessibility (SDG 6), production of greenhouse gases (SDG 13), pollution of life below water (SDG 14) and have a direct bearing on people’s well-being in cities (SDG 11). The contributors provide a synopsis of environmental impacts on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are often disproportionately impacted by severe environmental challenges from tropical storms to hurricanes. Here youth share their knowledge, experiences, and solutions on World Environment Day 2018 and beyond.