Climate change is one of the major global challenges of the 21st century, especially with regard to developing countries. Geographical and geological circumstances, in combination with a lack of social and economic development, leave developing countries among the most vulnerable when it comes to adaptation and mitigation challenges. The long and short term consequences of climate change will impact directly on development efforts and might slow down or hamper the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Youth in developing countries, especially in regions within Africa and Asia where a majority of the world’s youth live, will likely be more affected by climate change and its negative consequences than young people in developed countries. Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and in developing countries in particular. The consequences of extreme weather events have direct impact on health and safety of youth in these regions, especially when sanitary facilities and waste water management are poor. Since 30-50 per cent of youth in many African countries lack access to basic services, they are highly subject to the risk of disease in case of extreme weather events. Water scarcity, higher temperatures and an increased threat of heath-stress contribute even more to the vulnerability of young people. These developments pose a potential threat to the food security in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean because of its negative effects on food production, food distribution and agriculture.
Another consequence of climate change might have direct impact on the young people’s livelihoods is the originating of conflict situations. Factors that generally contribute to the development of a conflict situation, such as poverty, political instability and societal tensions could be intensified by the consequences of climate change. There exists a considerable possibility that tensions in Africa might rise due to lack of water resources in some of its regions.
The World Youth Report on Youth and Climate Change highlights the impact of climate change on young people’s livelihoods. Youth employment is one of the main areas that can be severely affected by climate change. A majority of young people living in developing countries work in the agricultural sector, and are therefore dependent on natural resources. This sector is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change; extreme weather events can destroy crops, may lead to soil degradation, and could diminish agricultural production. For this reason, the threat of unemployment and economic instability must be taken very seriously. On the other hand, the consequences of climate change may create new labour opportunities for youth in developed countries, as the demand for green jobs and green innovations is significantly increasing.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognizes the importance of youth participation and extended the provisional constituency status to young people in during COP15 in November 2009. This extended status allows young people to receive official information, to participate in meetings and to request speaking slots at the COP meetings. COP 16, held in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November – 10 December 2010, was attended by around 500 youth delegates, youth activists and representatives of youth organizations from all over the world. By organizing conference side events and by participating in media events, youth were able to expand their network and raise their concerns on climate change issues.
Youth have shown their engagement and concern about climate change in numerous initiatives all over the world. Young people and youth led organizations have been effectively participating in a wide range of adaptation and mitigation projects dealing with climate change. There are many examples of successful projects in which young people are being educated or educate each other on climate change issues. The World Youth Report highlights many of these positive initiatives. For example, in Guatemala students performed a hand-made-puppet show and planted trees in order to create awareness about climate change. Youth also have participated in numerous forums and workshops in which they shared information and worked on their capacities. In these projects, internet and digital media play a crucial role, facilitating global networks and stimulating interaction between young people from all over the world.
Apart from participating in programmes and projects within organizations young people can take a leading role in tackling climate change. By making small changes in their daily lives, this generation of young people can make a great difference. Youth can take action by making small changes at home and promoting a sustainable lifestyle in their local communities by acting as good examples. By turning off the lights when you leave the room or by using the bicycle instead of the car, you already contribute to a greener and more sustainable environment.
To read the newly released World Youth Report on Youth and Climate change, please Click Here
If you want to find out more about what young people are doing to ensure successful progress of the MDGs go to our facebook page (www.facebook.com/UNyouthyear). Through the facebook page you can also participate in this month’s consultation "What green initiatives are you involved in within your community?" You may come across ideas for initiatives that could make a difference in your city, or find a forum that might help you to develop new skills.
To learn more about the Millennium Development Goals Summit, please visit: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.
To find more activities taking place throughout the Year and to get inspiration on what you can do in your community, please visit our calendar of events at: http://social.un.org/youthyear.