These youth groups are fighting climate change around the world. How can we help them thrive?

This article was written by a participant of the Global Center on Adaptation’s Young Leaders Program. The program develops young talent to become future leaders in global climate change adaptation efforts by enhancing their knowledge, skills, and ability to thrive in an international environment.

S ince the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, climate adaptation – the “adjustments in human and natural systems in response to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects” – as a topic has become more prominent in global discussions and in news cycles. 

In these global discussions about climate change and climate adaptation, many stakeholders are involved – from community representatives and NGOs to governments and big business. Now, however, there is a new arrival on the scene, and one that is rapidly growing in power and influence – youth groups. The most famous of these, of course, is the Fridays for Future movement, which is led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, which has risen from humble beginnings to become a group that is empowering young people all over the world. 

But beyond Fridays for Future, there are many other youth groups, based all over the world, that are also doing great work in advocating the need to react and adapt to the climate crisis. 

For example, the Green Africa Youth Organization, which was founded in 2014, has campaigned for a future that believes in sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and disaster risk reduction.

Meanwhile, in Göttingen, Germany, the International Forestry Students’ Association takes a slightly different approach – it’s focus is “to achieve a sustainable future for our forests, and to provide a voice for youth in international forest policy processes”.

On the other side of the world, we also see youth groups such as the Movimiento de Jóvenes Latinoamericanos y Caribeños frente al Cambio Climático (CLIC), which brings together young people from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, and seeks to promote knowledge and awareness of climate issues.

While all of these groups have risen in prominence and have done a huge amount of work to spread awareness of their campaigns, they nevertheless face considerable challenges. Firstly, there is still a disconnect between these groups and other stakeholders such as governments and companies, which if utilised would give them even greater reach. 

Another issue is the huge amount of information this is being spread about climate change and related issues, and the difficulty these groups have in filtering this information and turning it into practical knowledge. 

Therefore, we need partnerships between these youth groups and other sectors, including government agencies and academia, to amplify their message and create a community that advocates for action against climate change and adaptation solutions worldwide.  

Greta Thunberg said: “Everybody is welcome, everybody is needed.” This, of course, also applies to young people. The climate change and climate adaptation movement, and future generations, need them to be given a seat at the table. The will and determination of young people from around the world is not in doubt – the world just needs to give them the support they deserve.

The ideas presented in this article aim to inspire adaptation action – they are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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