The time has come for us to develop new and sustainable methods to maintain our economy while managing our resources responsibly. We have come to the realization that climate change is one of the most important and influential topics in national and international agendas. Our social, economic, and political structures are directly correlated with the natural environment in which we live. It is heart-breaking that it took us so long to understand the impact of our actions on our planet.
Some of the critical issues discussed in the United Nations around the post-2015 development agenda include energy, water and food security, all of which are closely linked to climate change. We are living in times that are witness not only to increases in the frequency of natural disasters, but also the increase in their intensity. In order to ensure the development of a more environmentally friendly agenda, we need to ensure that young people are involved in the key stages of its development and implementation.
Why do we say that young people should be active partners in this process?
First, it needs to be understood that damages to the environment and any adverse consequences that come out of it affect young people more than others. By damaging the environment, we take away their future rights to the promise of resources provided by a healthy earth. Secondly, young people have proven to be not only the leaders of the future, but are in fact the most prevalent and important engineers of change in our present.
In our efforts to amend the injuries caused to the environment, we need to work hand-in-hand with youth to reach our goals. Youth need to be given the space and ownership to contribute actively toward ensuring sustainability of the beauty and richness of this planet for future generations to enjoy.
Young people around the world have demonstrated that they are entrepreneurial and creative. Innovations in how we educate and act are fundamental in the protection of our environment and people affected by climate change. Innovations in technology have facilitated access to life-saving aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. The El Mouddaa Adaptation Initiative in Morocco is a youth-led project that promotes sustainable land and water management, farming practices, and early warning techniques. This initiative has helped the people of El Mouddaa better face current and future climate challenges.
All around the world young people are actively designing and implementing such programs. On a deeper level, these initiatives have a systemic effect, changing the dynamics of their societies and promoting more sustainable and conscious behaviour among their communities.
Young people play a vital role in fighting climate change: they are consumers, voters, innovators and activists. As consumers, they can pressure businesses to act more responsibly; as voters, they can influence politicians to pay attention and make climate change one of their main priorities; as innovators, they can create alternative solutions; and as activists, they can ensure that youth voices are not marginalized, but rather are at the forefront of shaping policies for our future.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reminds us that “Climate change is not just an issue for the future—it’s an urgent issue for today.” An ambitious international response is needed to ensure passing a successful legal agreement to limit global warming at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. This not only requires the commitment of governments and policy makers globally, but also active engagement of citizens and corporations. This month offers a special opportunity for young people to help shape discussions that will happen at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014—an important step in furthering the negotiations that will take place in Paris.
The current consumption of natural resources and misuse of our earth is not sustainable. The Secretary-General stresses, “We might have a plan B, but we do not have a planet B.” I am confident that youth can and will make a difference in the fight against climate change. With dedication, passion and teamwork, we will make a notable difference—let’s preserve planet A.
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