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Broadening the climate movement


Since the initial wave of the 2018 climate strikes, the youth climate movement has been growing and gaining momentum. Today, youth across the world have positioned themselves as key actors urging for more ambitious climate action. This mobilisation has helped to re-energise the wider climate movement and hold decision-makers to account. However, several barriers still need to be addressed to make the most of intergenerational climate action.

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According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, those who are suffering the most from the impacts of climate change are still among the least represented in international decision-making spaces on climate. This is especially true for young groups representing regions that are most vulnerable to global warming, such as Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Small Islands and the Arctic, in addition to Indigenous Peoples globally. Moreover, youth and youth-led initiatives in the climate movement continue to face a significant lack of funding.

In response to this context, the European Climate Foundation is working with its network of grantee partners to expand and diversify the climate movement’s ties with youth groups, whose energy, creativity and unique perspectives can be catalytic in pushing for action.

Learning from young leaders

Youth-led action is a great example of how climate movements can generate support for ambitious climate policy, build pressure and reach new audiences.

Having witnessed this potential, the ECF is reinforcing its collaboration with youth-led initiatives across Europe and further afield; for instance, supporting youth organisations working on energy systems; providing advice and coaching on communications tactics and narratives; and bringing together youth groups from different countries to share their experiences and best practices.

As part of these efforts, the ECF network has also helped set up infrastructure to enable above-the-ground campaigns. Some examples include the creation of impactful initiatives such as the Resilience Project, a UK-based youth intervention aimed at empowering a generation of resilient changemakers; and the African Youth Climate Hub, a platform encouraging youth participation in conversations around climate change. Both initiatives are for youth, and by youth, and aim to be positive spaces for exchange and peer learning.

Amplifying voices at COP27

In preparation for COP27, the Foundation supported the Climate Young Negotiator Programme (CYNP), which trains, connects, and empowers youth negotiators to participate meaningfully in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. This ongoing initiative helps deliver intergenerational equity in decision-making spaces, and in doing so, achieve more ambitious global climate commitments. In the first year, 26 countries joined the Programme, nominating nearly 60 young people in total to participate in a five-month-long training and community building programme.

The support of the ECF and other funders helped enable the initiative’s young negotiators to build skills, foster strong relationships with other negotiators and learn from their peers. As with other youth-led projects, the Foundation valued CYNP’s efforts to prioritise the security and mental well-being of their participants – a focus that the ECF is committed to continue providing.

“One of the most valuable things I acquired after the Programme’s training was self-confidence (…) and the courage to speak up, not only as a youth representative, but more importantly as a powerful agent of change. CYNP shows that young people as negotiators help to actually bring out those silent issues that are not being talked about at COP.”

Actions ahead

Young campaigners are playing a key role in building bridges, communicating about solutions, and creating pressure for political action. In recognition of this, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference this November, the International Youth Climate Delegate Program (International YCDP) was launched with the goal to ensure that youth proposals are fully integrated into global climate policymaking and dialogues. This new programme demonstrates the importance of building capacity and representation among youth who have become instrumental in bringing the climate fight to the forefront of public attention and politics. Going forward, the ECF network is committed to further building on this momentum—expanding the breadth of voices we collaborate with, empowering youth to imagine and build the future they want, and helping ensure that all under-represented and marginalised groups are part of the conversation.