CLIMATE AND YOUTH
The ninth edition of the Sustainable Future Dialogues series, promoted by Instituto Clima e Sociedade (iCS) and the German Embassy in Brazil, gathered youth leaders with different world views to debate how the climate crisis affects today’s youth. The international event happened during the Brazilian Conference on Climate Change, on November 7th, in Recife.
According to the Global Shapers Forum survey, conducted by the World Economic Forum with over 30 thousand young people from 186 countries, including Brazil, 48% of interviewed subjects stated that climate change and natural destruction were the most important global issues today.
The worry about current and future generations has been discussed in international climate negotiations and is also part of the Paris Agreement, according to which 195 nations committed to specific goals around the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to put a brake on the average global temperature increase. However, this demand has only become explicit a little over a year ago, when thousands of young people hit the streets to demand more ambitious strategies against the climate crisis.
“In Germany, it was a very efficient movement. It was a game changer. Without these protests, the climate program signed in September 2019 by the Germany government would certainly have been less ambitious. That was said by chancellor Angela Merkel herself.”
Maria Könning-de Siqueira Regueira
Consul General for Germany in Recife
In Brazil, young people’s engagement in climate change-related issues is growing, but faces additional challenges. Alice Amorim, Climate Policy Coordinator at iCS, questions the meaning of climate activism in Brazil, a country where young people are victims of violence facing racism, social exclusion and unemployment.
“The climate crisis affects all of us. It’s already affecting us, but often in invisible ways. Bringing these controversies to the table is a challenge, but its importance is fundamental, and that’s this dialogue’s intention.”
Climate Policy Coordinator at iCS
According to the Fundação Telefônica’s Juventude e Conexões survey, among social issues considered to be most relevant and most worthy of engagement by Brazilian youth, environmental and climate change issues were ranked 9th, mentioned by 11% of interview subjects as the most important for our country. Issues such as education, public safety, corruption control and healthy eating were ranked higher. All of these issues are less urgent in developed countries, where climate strikes had thousands of participants.
“When I started getting involved in climate issues, I thought it was weird to be the only person talking about it in my neighborhood. When I began studying the issue, I realized I live in a low-income area, where most of the population is black and has other worries. It’s hard to bring climate into the conversation with a family that’s mostly unemployed, facing millions of other problems.”
With creativity and more accessible language, young people have been able to communicate the sense of urgency that scientists have been warning about for years.
YOUTH MOBILIZATION HELPS TO INSERT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN PEOPLE’S DAILY LIVES AND TO CATALYZE MORE AMBITION ACTIONS TO FACE IT.
“For a long time, science has been spreading a message that goes unheard by decision-makers, but we, as young people, hear it and are here to raise these voices that have been falling on deaf ears for decades. A voice that’s based on science and method, not on opinion or anything.”
Fridays for Future Activist (Brazil)
Climate change affects future prospects for young people in many areas, including work, since it directly impacts the economy, especially in Brazil, which is highly climate-dependent.
“Climate change will start affecting us if we don’t start addressing it right now, especially in developing countries. That’s because we’re commodity-exporters and it directly affects food production.”
Gadelha also highlighted the importance of fighting for broader youth participation in politics, as did Fridays for the Future activist Rebecca Freitag (Germany). She mentioned that under-30-year-olds represent half of the world population, but their participation in congress reaches only 2%.
“Young people are hitting the streets to remind politicians of their responsibilities. That’s a highly political act. That’s why it’s so important to empower young people from a political point of view, lowering voting age and increasing congress participation, because they’re negotiating our future without us.”
Fridays for the Future (Germany)
Igor Vieira, from Engajamundo (Pernambuco), defends the importance of bringing climate discussion to a local perspective. According to him, international negotiations in the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change's Conference of the Parties (COP) won’t be able to solve the current crisis by themselves.
“The Paris Agreement is an extremely important tool for national goal-setting, but we also need personal goals. And we need to start working on those goals.”
Cássia Oliveira Moraes, Youth Climate Leaders founder, added that the local and global perspective helps establishing connections to potentialize youth activists’ work.
“It’s almost like opening the door into a new world. When you discover you’re not alone. That’s very important in this moment. It’s hard enough already for those who have been working with climate for years and years. So having people on your side, to fight alongside you, while also making the workload lighter is very important.”
Cássia Oliveira Moraes
Youth Climate Leaders founder
According to Joyce Najm Mendez, Climate Reality Project (Paraguay), climate change puts into motion much-needed lifestyle, production and consumption model changes to face this crisis.
“We’re facing a paradigm shift at a civilization level. This ‘glocal’ perspective, global plus local, added to young people’s ease with building bridges, their disruptive thoughts and process-catalyzer abilities, allows us to hack into spaces and bring new perspectives.”
Joyce Najm Mendez
Climate Reality Project (Paraguay)
Mirin Ju Yan Guarani, a young Guarani indigenous leader, reminded that as important as having answers, or maybe more important, is the ability to ask questions, and questioning is a strong suit among young people.
“We’re not here to tell you what you want to know because what you want to know are questions with inconclusive answers. We want to show you new questions. We want to bring new paradigms for humanity. Everything’s connected. Science has been trying to explain interdependence and can now understand it better because, to a certain point, it has been accepting First people’s wisdom.”
Mirin Ju Yan Guarani
young Guarani indigenous leader
Building joint articulated actions is one of the challenges to face climate change. According to Lutz Morgenstern, First Secretary for Environmental Matters for Germany in Brazil, young people’s mobilization around climate strikes is a success story. He highlighted the German results, where young people brought 1.4 million people into the streets, a significant number considering that 7 million people worldwide took part in the strike.
“This youth-led movement brought essential criticism to the government, but in a constructive manner that can really transform things. In Germany, it was highly successful, and I think we’ll take even more ambitious steps on environmental policies as a result.”
First Secretary for Environmental Matters for Germany in Brazil
Photos: Cynthia Myarka
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