Eleventh Hour: Youth at the table of climate decision-making

By Rain Bello

Our voice is powerful and should not fall on deaf ears.

 

Protests by the youth are often seen as a nuisance despite being responses to underlying problems. Demands delivered on the megaphones or written on placards are not created on a whim but are borne from countless discourses among stakeholders—and they should be considered by people in power.

In some cases, young people like me are invited to speak in conferences and events but our cries of pain, fear, and disappointment remained within the halls of the room. Our inputs were not reflected in policies nor programs. Our presence was just embellishments—tokenized to put up a green façade without taking necessary climate actions. This should never be the case.

A vital lesson reiterated in my physical therapy classes is that our patients should have a say on what and how they would like to be treated. They should have a share in the decision-making process, especially since they are recipients of interventions or programs. The same principle could also be applied on climate action.

By consulting with stakeholders, climate solutions would become more inclusive, and policies and programs would be more effective in addressing issues and concerns. This was the case when the Climate Change Commission consulted various sectors, including the youth, during the revisions of the Philippines’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, although some suggestions were not included in the final document.

Another example of an institution harnessing the meaningful participation of the youth in decision-making is the Office of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Seven young leaders comprise his youth advisory group on climate change with representation from the indigenous peoples and Global South countries. After consulting youth from different regions, they released a report on the importance of fostering green jobs in COVID recovery efforts.

The C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, also provides an exemplary platform for the youth. Through the C40 Global Youth & Mayors Forum, I had the opportunity to join 12 other young leaders and six mayors from Global North and Global South countries to discuss how the youth could contribute to the climate action plans and programs of localities, fostering deeper conversations to produce new insights, and finding common ground between both parties.

 

Collective message of 14 youth to six mayors in the C40 Global Youth & Mayors Forum.

We presented our collective message to the mayors outlining our demands. Among these are climate justice especially for the disproportionately impacted communities, combating green-washing tactics by corporations, implementing radical climate policies and not false promises, strengthened collaboration of youth with groups, institutions, and sectors, and genuine youth engagement. We emphasized that youth are capable agents of change and suggested that mayors who have not yet done so should create local youth councils, which help form climate policies of the localities.

Here in the Philippines, our Sangguniang Kabataan and their federations at the municipal, city, and provincial levels should be mobilized to effectively mainstream climate awareness in their areas of jurisdiction and ensure that climate policies and programs are indeed beneficial for their target communities.

With youth comprising at least 10 percent of our population, serving in various sectors and industries, I believe that their knowledge, expertise, and valuable experience should be tapped to create more encompassing and intersectoral climate policies.

The youth have already taken the initial steps by voicing out their concerns. It is now up to those in power to listen, consider their demands and proposals, and foster genuine engagement with them.

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About Eleventh Hour

This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.

About the Author

Rain Bello (He/Him) is a Youth Cluster member of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. He is a member of the C40 Global Youth & Mayors Forum, and a physical therapy student at UP Manila. He believes that health is deeply linked to the climate crisis.