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“The Pressure Is Getting Worser” / Blog  / 2023  / “The Pressure Is Getting Worser” 

…as the youth would jokingly tell you.

Photo Credits: A Borrowed Planet – Inherited from our ancestors. On loan from our children. by Alisa Singer © 2022 All rights reserved. Source: IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of a fast-shrinking window of opportunity to assure a livable and sustainable future for all, emphasising that decisions and actions taken this decade will have far-reaching implications. The Sixth Assessment Report, released in March 2023, emphasises the importance of addressing the climate crisis’s near-term (up to 2040), mid-term (2041-2060), and long-term (2081-2100) implications. While the later milestones may appear distant, remember that children born in 2020 will be 20 years old in 2040 and 80 years old in 2100, implying that the end of the century will be within their lifespan. Thus, for young people considering their future, knowing that their potential to achieve their life goals has an expiration date is highly frightening. Older generations may share some of the dread, but it is usually motivated by concern for their children and grandkids. As a result, the measures we take today to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate will significantly impact the quality of life, health, well-being, and security of young people and their children.

Furthermore, by 2050, nearly 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities, with many living in unplanned or informal settlements. As a result, today’s children and future generations are more vulnerable to climate change and related dangers such as flooding, heat stress, water scarcity, poverty, and hunger. As we can see today, children suffer the most from climate change’s effects. In 2021, a global research study of 10,000 teenagers from ten nations found that over half of young people felt unhappy, nervous, furious, powerless, helpless, and guilty about climate change, with 45 percent reporting that their feelings negatively impacted their everyday lives. With the future looking grim, young people are left asking themselves:

  • How can I even plan for the future?
  • Do the choices I make today even matter?
  • Is there even a place for me to give meaning to the things that I do?

We Must Act Now And Protect Youth And Future Generations.

Young people, children, and women bear the brunt of the repercussions of climate change, but they are excluded from decision-making. People in positions of authority are frequently driven to defend the status quo, which has provided them with the lifestyles they have become accustomed to. Youth, as a vulnerable population, have limited access to resources, limiting their potential to scale up climate action. It also leads to intense competition for those limited resources, negating the purpose of collaborative and coordinated climate action. This competition is a distraction; the overall picture is far more critical.

There is no time to spare; we cannot allow fear and anxiety to render us ineffective. Young people are already working to reduce climate change. Efficient and effective youth participation is critical for identifying difficulties, bringing fresh ideas, and training, preparing, and informing future generations about the mitigation and adaptation required for decades. In addition, young people play a significant role in influencing, lobbying, and demanding responsible climate behaviour from governments and the commercial sector. Young people wish to do the following:

  • Influence policy.
  • Be part of the implementation.
  • Be part of monitoring and evaluation processes to hold those in power accountable.
  • Raise awareness/ – to equip young people with the tools to know what is happening in their communities, primarily because of the impacts of climate change. 
  • Educate/Share Knowledge- Young people can help break down the highly technical IPCC and other climate-related reports. 

Our Call To Action 

The IPCC warns that as global warming continues, the efficiency of adaptation efforts will deteriorate. We must prioritise bridging gaps in mitigation and adaptation to overcome this challenge. We need intensified efforts in the following areas: 

  • Private sector and citizen participation
  • Climate literacy
  • Strong political commitment
  • An increased sense of urgency
  • Mobilising of finances

The IPCC report emphasises the enormous gap between fossil fuel investments and climate action, which results in growing losses and damages. A significant shift toward big investments in climate solutions is required to reverse this tendency. Investing in a green economy is the only way to ensure a healthy, prosperous, and equitable future. Stakeholders must work together to shift attention away from the dirty fossil fuel economy and old technologies and toward creating an economy that restores our planet’s health, protects our species, and provides opportunities for all.

With the enormous accomplishment of establishing a fund for Loss and Damage at COP27, it is critical to maintain the effort and supply suitable solutions rooted in equality and justice until COP28. Right now, countries must pave the path for an agreement on the Loss and Damage finance facility and operationalise the new fund so that it can help the most vulnerable people. As the Covid-19 epidemic demonstrated, fast mobilisation of funds is possible.

The IPCC report serves as a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need for action on climate change. However, more than simply recognising the problem is required; we must also focus on finding practical solutions. This raises the question of how we can make sustainable options more accessible and affordable, especially for those struggling financially. Additionally, designing equitable and participative systems is crucial to ensure that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, has access to sustainable choices and benefits from climate action.

Empowering youth voices is one way to address these challenges and promote a just transition. Here the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) can play a vital role. By establishing a dedicated youth engagement team within the framework of projects like the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), the PCC can ensure that young people’s perspectives are heard and actively considered in climate policy decisions. This inclusion helps shape climate policies that meet the needs of future generations’ needs and provides valuable opportunities for youth to learn and contribute to implementing these policies.

In conclusion, to achieve a sustainable and just future for all stakeholders, including youth, it is essential to connect the dots between accessibility, equity, and youth empowerment. We can create a society that addresses the challenges of climate change while providing opportunities for the next generation to develop the skills and experiences needed to shape a better future by making sustainable options more accessible to all, particularly those facing daily struggles, and actively involving youth in climate policy decisions. The path to a more sustainable future is paved with inclusive and participatory systems that prioritise all needs and empower the voices of tomorrow.

Views shared on this blog were first shared at the Presidential Climate Commission online webinar “IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report: Adaptation, Vulnerability and Impact Dialogue” on the 5th of May 2023.

Moliehi Mafantiri is an Intern: Climate Action and Coordination at the South African Climate Action Network (SACAN). Hlengiwe Radebe is a Civil Society and Youth Engagement Officer at WWF South Africa. They write this piece in their capacity as members of the Climate Ambition to Accountability Project — a joint project of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Climate Action Network South Africa (SACAN) and the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ). The project’s objective is to realise the effective participation of South African organisations in climate change governance to ensure enhanced climate policy ambition, implementation and accountability. The European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency co-funded the project. This blog is the sole responsibility of the project team and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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