SACAN is part of the Climate Action Network (CAN), a worldwide network of over 1300 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in over 130 countries / Blog  / 2023  / Resilient futures: Youth and government for inclusive policymaking.

Resilient futures: Youth and government for inclusive policymaking.

In honour of Youth Day, the Youth Climate Champions (YCC) under the Climate Ambition to Accountability Project (CAAP) in collaboration with the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) held its second Intergenerational dialogue and launch of the YCC position paper on the 15th of June 2023. The 2-hour hybrid event was facilitated by Hlengiwe Radebe, Civil Society Engagement Officer and the Intergenerational Dialogue was moderated by Onke Ngcuka, an Our Burning Planet journalist from Daily Maverick. Against this backdrop, the theme for the intergenerational dialogue was Youth and Government for Inclusive Climate Policy. This theme is a follow-up from last year’s theme which was Beyond Youth tokenism: Creating Active Youth Climate Champions. 

The event kicked off with the launch of a YCC position paper titled Exploring Meaningful Youth Engagement in South African Climate Policy.  The paper was a combination of inputs from the 2022 YCC Bootcamp delegates who are lead authors. By raising questions about overcoming the challenges that hinder youth engagement, the paper advocates for a more inclusive and equitable decision-making process that reflects the diverse needs and concerns of all those in South Africa, including youth. Nathma Samie one of the lead authors stated that one of the desired outcomes of the position paper was that its success would result in greater support from policymakers, where youth would be empowered to contribute and lead climate policy processesnationally and globally. The position paper further outline calls to action as shared by, Fani Miya, another lead author who stated that establishing youth councils can be part of the solution where youth organisations can play a role in empowering the youth. 

Next was a panel aimed at bringing together youth development professionals and climate policy experts The panel consisted of youth speakers leading the charge in climate action and senior representatives who brought a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Thandile Chinyavanhu, a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Green Peace Africa highlighted how the presence of youth is growing in shifting the climate change crisis policy where they have carved out a space for themselves in guiding conversations and around policy. With regards to increasing meaningful youth participation in policy and decision-making processes, and moving away from tokenistic initiatives. Thandile voiced out that government needs to consider literacy levels in the country, so engagement is not only limited to a select few. Kopano Moraka, a Digital Strategy Lead at Khantša Energy voiced out that young people are calling for inclusion in policy-making processes, not on a tokenistic level, but to be included and involved in the negotiation and implementation processes. As South Africa is moving towards a just energy transition and climate-resilient economy, it is important for the government and stakeholders from all sectors of the economy to effectively engage youth in this implementation. Some of the work Khantša Energy does is a series  highlighting young people  and the work that they do in the renewable energy space, as well as the climate and environmental energy space through their Young Basotho Spotlight Series which is a movement that highlights young people

While it is important that youth are considered in climate policy, it is also important to make sure that they are included in those processes and procedures. The four senior panellists all shared similar points on acknowledging the positive youth role in climate action implementation and policy. Mike Denison, Senior Manager at Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa(WESSA) noted the importance of having youth engaging meaningfully in the climate space and discussions by being part of the bigger international and continental community, where such exposure will allow them to play an influential role in contextualising climate crisis issues. Dipak Patel, the Head of Climate Finance and Innovation at the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) highlighted that youth are part of society and that the PCC has created space for them to be affirmed to ensure inclusivity when engaging with them at the climate policy level. 

Local municipalities also have a huge role to play in this regard, by making space for youth engagement as highlighted by Dorah Morema, the Head Municipal Sustainability Portfolio at South African Local Government Association. She shared out that municipalities are spheres of government that are closest to the people, and they play an important role in bridging the gap between what government has to say to the youth. As much as issues of climate change and policy are new in municipalities, there is space for youth to engage with the municipality. Municipalities have special program units that are led by mayoral member committees or youth development coordinators, whose role is to coordinate all youth-related issues, including women and people with disabilities. Furthermore, Ms Morema concluded by stating that South Africa’s Climate Change Bill will play a huge role in how municipalities respond to issues of climate change, where they will develop this climate action plan and review it every five years. Henry Roman (PhD), Director for Environmental Services & Technologies at the Department of Science and Innovation, South Africa stated that some of the ways in which the department actively engages youth to inform future and present policy is that they are working with postgraduate students and researchers across the country. Additionally, they have put in place entrepreneurial programmes at a grassroots level to reach out to youth that are not in the academic circle, this may include youth that are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and those in marginalized communities.


In a time when countries globally, including South Africa, are revising policies, and introducing new policies to address the global challenge of climate change, young people have shown that they have the motivation, creativity, and passion to play a central role in climate responses. Their fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to climate change can help in addressing the climate change crisis. An enabling policy environment and a youth-inclusive approach to government programme development can play an important role in supporting their efforts towards a more climate-resilient environment. The combination of the commitment and dynamism of youth and the wisdom and experience of the elder generation delivered powerful insights and calls to action capable of influencing decision-makers and raising public awareness and action. It is therefore hoped that this dialogue will pave the way for future collaborations on climate policy by highlighting the current state of climate policy in South Africa, the challenges both generations face in engaging each other to influence policy and proposing solutions for how we can overcome those challenges to ensure inclusive and consultative climate policy.

Zikhona Mtwa is a Climate Action and Coordination Intern at the South African Climate Action Network (SACAN). This blog is written for 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 project is co-funded by The European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 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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