Driving youth engagement in adaptation action: New GCA technical report launched during third Youth Adaptation Dialogue on International Youth Day

T wo years ago, massive floods struck Zimbabwe. At the time, Elizabeth Gulugulu’s youth organization lacked the resources it needed to provide assistance. After mobilizing funds, they were able to provide capacity building to youth and communities in vulnerable areas and start a youth-led reforestation project to reduce the land degradation that led to deadly mudslides.

“At the end of the day we know that young people are energetic. If they are capacitated it will be possible for them to take action,” she said during GCA’s third Youth Adaptation Dialogue focused on celebrating youth-led adaptation solutions. The livestreamed event took place on 12th August to commemorate International Youth Day.

Gulugulu, 30, is a Project Manager at the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. Her experience of overcoming barriers to youth climate action is one of the case studies featured in GCA’s latest technical report: Young people and drivers and barriers to climate adaptation action, launched during the dialogue.

The report, produced in collaboration with the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Kai Analytics, and the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), highlights the importance of engaging young people in climate adaptation.

CEO of GCA Prof. Dr. Patrick Verkooijen, who delivered the opening remarks at the dialogue, said, “It would be a completely missed opportunity if in the coming years we do not work much more strongly with youth, not in a tokenistic way, not just inviting you to the conversation, but particularly to drive action going forward.”

As Verkooijen pointed out, some of the report’s findings are particularly troubling. For instance, youth advocates are not engaging in the climate debate for three main reasons: because they feel powerless, because they weren’t invited to join the conversation and because they don’t know how to engage.

The study is based on more than 3,000 responses to an online survey disseminated through youth networks, making it one of the largest surveys on this topic, Dr. Sander Chan, GCA’s Senior Researcher on Non-state Action and one of the study’s lead authors, explained at the event.

Twenty young people, including Gulugulu and Cidia Chissungu, founder of Central de Apoio in Mozambique, who also shared her experience and views at the dialogue, were interviewed in areas affected by Cyclone Idai and floods in the Horn of Africa, to understand the extent to which these events shaped youth climate adaptation action.

“We find many examples of young people who are affected by these events but also became champions of climate adaptation action,” Chan said.

During the dialogue, Shristi Singh, Program Coordinator of Climate Change for CEE, shared the studies’ key findings in terms of education and youth networks and echoed Chan’s words.

“Youth with exposure to major weather events were found to be highly engaged in adaptation. That came as a major finding…what we actually expected was the other way around,” she admitted.

Singh explained that education is a significant driver of youth engagement at the local, regional and national level.

“The study also identified that when education is combined with active networking opportunities and platforms, it helps youth to disseminate the knowledge they have gained and how they can lead collective action and resilience measures. They are able to share their concerns with the network and most importantly, this will make them participate in decision-making processes as well,” she said.

Heeta Lakhani, Global South Focal Point for YOUNGO, the Children and Youth constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, steered the dialogue to the topic of food systems, the theme of this year’s International Youth.

Food systems are responsible for one third of global emissions and Lakhani expressed that this fact is not receiving enough attention.

“We talk about the energy transformation, which is absolutely necessary, but we’re not talking about a food systems transformation as much as we should be,” she said, adding that we need to look at the entire food system cycle, including how we grow food, where we grow it, what is going into the soil, and how the food is transported.

“I think we need to start thinking about what we’re eating. Where is our food coming from and what is happening once we’ve eaten the food, what is happening if there’s any waste left,” she urged, explaining that waste creates even more emissions.

Experts from organizations focused on climate resilience and adaptation also provided their inputs at the event, including Roop Singh, from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, Adama Bamba from the Africa Union Youth Advisory Board on Disaster Risk Reduction, Kimberly Olson, Manager of partnerships for the Canadian Centre for Climate Services, and Daniel Schaffer CEO of FEE.

The dialogue was organized and co-moderated by Adriana Valenzuela, GCA’s Youth Leadership Program Lead, and GCA Fellow Joshua Amponsem.

The next Youth Adaptation Dialogue will take place on 22nd September 2021, and will focus on gender and food systems.

About GCA’s Youth Leadership Program

The Youth Leadership Program seeks to mobilize and empower young people to drive the global adaptation agenda and strengthen their communities’ climate resilience through initiatives that include the Youth Adaptation Network, Adaptation Education, Jobs Trainings, and the Young Leaders’ Program.

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