#Youth4Climate: Paris and Beyond

Last September, 194 young people stood in the balcony at United Nations Headquarters in New York and witnessed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. More than 7 million young people from around the globe spoke up and seized the opportunity to vote on their priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals, and they placed climate change at the top of their list.

This past December, our delegation of 10 teachers joined young people from around the world attended COP 21 in Paris, witnessing a negotiation for their future — something they shouldn’t have to fight so hard for. Ultimately, the Paris Agreement was reached with a pledge to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

The Sustainable Development Goals, the Clean Power Plan, the Paris Agreement: These hugely ambitious plans are existential leaps for the United States and the world. In order to make them happen, they require a movement of young people to lift them up and shine light on their profound importance.

This story began long before them and and it will continue long after them, but today, young people have a unique chance to shape the conversation and shift the course of history.

#Youth4Climate is a campaign organized by a coalition of partners with a goal to inspire young people around the world to take action on climate change. By providing a platform for young people to be heard and by carving out space for them in places where they’ve historically been marginalized, #Youth4Climate is empowering young people to have influence in the global climate conversation. Climate Generation helped organize this coalition as we prepared for COP21 in November.

Youth4Climate Meme

Youth are uniquely equipped to harness their passions towards developing solutions that confront our toughest challenges.  #Youth4Climate is part of a generational call to action for youth and those who support them to develop their skills, perseverance, and collaboration to help innovate new technologies and rapidly scale solutions to tackle the climate crisis.

Young people today will be most affected by climate change. The #Youth4Climate coalition recognizes that they have a place in making decisions about their own climate futures.

This week, for #EarthWeek2016, we are empowering young people around the world to engage in the High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the historic signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, both taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

True to our mission as a coalition, we’ve worked to ensure a young person will address the world during the opening ceremony on Thursday, April 21. Victoria Barrett, a 17-year-old Honduran-American with roots in the Garifuna Indigenous culture, was born and raised in New York. She’s a youth activist and Action Fellow with the #Youth4Climate coalition partner Alliance for Climate Education (ACE).

Why does climate change education matter?

Climate Generation’s mission is to educate and empower individuals to engage in solutions to climate change. We recognize that youth will inherit the unparalleled impacts of climate change and are among our most powerful advocates. Through our Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN) program we support a network of high school environmental clubs across the Twin Cities to empower student leadership on climate change solutions and take coordinated action on campus and in the wider community.

We believe educators are critical messengers of climate and that energy literacy and climate change education is part of the solution. Through our education program we engage educators and the public, providing them with resources to achieve climate literacy and engage in solutions in their schools and informal learning centers. and community. We know our approach works. Teachers that attend our Summer Institutes for Climate Change Education show an increase in both their confidence and competence to deliver climate change education and 90% of the individuals that have attended our public engagement events report taking action on climate change.

Teachers
Teachers at our Summer Institute for Climate Change Education

Article 12 of the final Paris agreement reaffirms that education is a means for fighting climate change.

“Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.”

As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change says in Article 6, education contributes to the solutions being developed to respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change.

“The solutions to climate change are also the paths to a safer, healthier, cleaner and more prosperous future for all. To see this and to understand what needs to be done requires a sharp and sustained focus on education, training and public awareness in all countries and at all levels of government, society and enterprise.”

Key points on why climate change education matters:

  • Long-term, independent records from weather stations, satellites, ocean buoys, tide gauges, and many other data sources all confirm that our nation, like the rest of the world, is warming. Scientists who study climate change confirm that these observations are consistent with significant changes in Earth’s climatic trends. (U.S. National Climate Assessment, 2014).
  • Over the 21st century, climate scientists expect Earth’s temperature to continue increasing, very likely more than it did during the 20th century. Two anticipated results are rising global sea level and increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, and floods. These changes will affect almost every aspect of human society, including economic prosperity, human and environmental health, and national security. (USGCRP Climate Literacy, 2009)
  • Climate change will bring economic and environmental challenges as well as opportunities, and citizens who have an understanding of climate science will be better prepared to respond to both. (USGCRP Climate Literacy, 2009)
  • Society needs citizens who understand the climate system and know how to apply that knowledge in their careers and in their engagement as active members of their communities. (USGCRP Climate Literacy, 2009)
  • Climate change will continue to be a significant element of public discourse. Understanding the essential principles of climate science will enable all people to assess news stories and contribute to their everyday conversations as informed citizens. (USGCRP Climate Literacy, 2009)

The #Youth4Climate social media campaign is an effort led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), the CLEAN Network, The Wild Center, the World Bank Group’s global partnership program Connect4Climate, Climate Generation, Earth Day Network, Climate Interactive, Climate Sign, and others. It is an open discussion for all to join the youth call for climate action.

Young people are a powerful global influence. More than one billion around the world are influencing their schools, communities and families, and they are the most interconnected, digitally savvy generation ever to live. In order to tackle the complex issue of climate change, we need skilled, educate young leaders that feel empowered to innovate solutions.

Climate Generation is thrilled to work in partnership with the #Youth4Climate coalition to support young people in taking their place at the center of the climate conversation during the historic events of this week and beyond.

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