Amid global march of the young people demanding urgent climate action, the youth leaders brought their message to the UN for the Youth Climate Summit, the opening salvo of the three-day long United Nations Climate Action Summit, which will culminate on Monday.
The Youth Climate Summit – the first time the UN has convened a summit for young people completely devoted to climate action – aimed at giving voice to the demands of young people to take far swifter action to reduce emissions that, without action, are on track to reverse the development gains of the recent decades that have improved the lives of millions of people.
The Summit opened a dialogue between the youth and decision makers, putting young people in the driving seat with voice and agency to realise their potential and the change they are persisting towards climate action, said the UN Information Centre in Dhaka.
Hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Youth Climate Action Summit brought youth climate champions together from more than 140 countries and territories to a platform to share their solutions on the global stage, and deliver a clear message to world leaders: We need to act now to address climate change.
The outcomes of the Youth Climate Summit will feed into the Climate Action Summit, which will be attended by heads of state and government as well as business CEOs and civil society leaders.
Guterres, calling this generation of young people “essential” in combating the climate crisis, said the gathering was a critical milestone ahead of Monday’s Climate Action Summit, where he has asked world leaders to come with bold, concrete plans. He credited youth for shaking up leaders’ “laissez-faire” approach to climate change.
“We are not yet there,” Guterres said, adding that we are “still losing the race” against climate change. “But there is a change in momentum. Largely this change in momentum was due to your [Greta Thunberg’s] initiative, and to the courage with which you have started this movement.”
“Millions around the world [are] saying clearly, not only that they want change, not only that decision makers must change, but they want them to be accountable,” he added.
“I have granddaughters. I want them to live in a livable planet. My generation has a huge responsibility. It is your generation that must hold us accountable to make sure we don’t betray the future of humankind.”
The Youth Climate Summit featured a full-day of programmes that brought together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change makers committed to combating climate change at the pace and scale needed to meet the climate challenge.
The programme culminated in unveiling the State of Youth Platform and the ActNow platform that encourages people to take action on climate action.
To close the Summit, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed took part in a Town Hall with the participants and high-level representatives from governments and civil society.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Millions of young people all over the world are already being affected by it. If we don’t act now, the impact will be severe.”
Sea ice and ice mass continue to decrease, sea-level rise is accelerating, and sea water is becoming more acid. Food insecurity and health impacts are growing. But the world is continuing to invest in fossil fuels.
Jayathma Wickramanayake emphasised that climate action must be fair and just. “We have to ensure that no one, especially young people, is left behind.”
The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said, are a blueprint for the world to achieve sustainable development by 2030. Climate action (SDG 13) is crucial to achieve this.