12 Aug The Power of Youth-Led Climate Action

By Gabriela McGuinty Cañete, Youth Challenge International HerStart Climate Action Fellow in Tanzania

Young people today are more involved in climate action than ever before. Youth are actively engaged at local, national and global levels in raising awareness, educating the public, conserving nature, developing renewable energy projects, and encouraging environmentally friendly practices and initiatives. With youth currently representing the majority of the population in most developing and climate-vulnerable countries, this new generation exposed to climate-related disasters from an early age have proven to have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness with the motivation to lead our world towards a climate resilient future. 

Although young people did not create the current climate reality, they have inherited it and are reminded that they may be the last generation with a chance to save the fate of our planet. Achim Steiner, the administrator of the UNDP and Chairman of the UN Sustainable Development Group, explains that youth have a unique role to play in the climate action movement as “their creativity, ability to define and deliver answers and downright determination could make a significant difference in avoiding the worst outcomes of climate change which currently appear to elude the existing generation of leaders across governments, cities, corporations and adult citizens”.

While young people are actively mobilizing for climate action, they are also experiencing high rates of anxiety. A study conducted in March 2021 by Force of Nature, a youth organization dedicated to addressing eco-anxiety, reported that 70% of participants experienced a feeling of hopelessness when they thought about climate change. This number highlights the enormous impact the climate movement has had on youth mental health, but also indicates the pressing responsibility young people feel to become involved in climate action. In fact, with rising numbers of young people suffering from eco-anxiety, there has been a mass youth mobilization at climate events like COP26 last year. 

Youth organizations are gaining international recognition and greater access to climate circles where they were previously uninvited. In 2009, the UNFCCC recognized youth groups as an official constituency called YOUNGO. With a membership of 200 youth organizations and over 5500 individuals internationally, YOUNGO leverages its global network to facilitate youth participation at UN climate talks. The importance of young people having a seat at the climate table cannot be underplayed, as the UN Division for Sustainable Development Goals argues that youth participation has “brought moral, intergenerational and equity-based values as well as constructive technical and policy inputs to the negotiations.” With more climate-related youth organizations appearing, discussions about our future can begin to include more people that will be around to witness the consequences of inaction on climate change.

While the climate action space can seem daunting, resources by youth climate activists already exist outlining different roles in the climate movement. Check out Youth Climate Action for ways to become involved in your community by engaging with officials or organizing events. Follow youth organizations already paving the way for a greener future, including some that are shaping government legislation or using a multimedia approach to raise alarm, or others that are broadening the scope of climate justice. The youth climate action space is inclusive, diverse and always seeking a helping hand. 

To take climate action with Youth Challenge International, check out our current HerStart Fellowship opportunities, including our Climate Action Fellow roles, as well as our Innovate MY Future program for GTHA youth aged 16-24 to create community-based climate action projects.

Join the global climate action movement, learn more and TAKE ACTION TODAY!