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Youth Climate Leaders Program Empowers Youth to Tackle Climate Change

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

[Repost from: link]

Climate change, like white walkers from the ‘Game of Thrones’ television series, is something too big, complex and out of our daily lives’ concerns. To really understand it, one must see and feel it for oneself. Therefore, to build the next generation of climate leaders, we have designed a unique experience: one trip around the world to learn more about climate change in theory, understand it in practice, and work on hands-on projects with other young people.

This first pilot will have three main components: (1) a 40-day immersion in Paris, France, and several cities in Kenya for 20-35 people from all over the world; (2) three-month tailored field placements from September to November; and (3) a one-week trip to the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC in Katowice, Poland. At each destination, participants will meet with key local organizations, universities and community leaders. They will also have free time to experience the country and connect with each other, building lasting relationships and a community of climate champions.

During the week, participants will work part-time on a common group project and attend lectures about climate science, international cooperation, climate finance and other topics at which Youth Climate Leaders (YCLs) must excel. Given that practical and academic knowledge is not enough to foster leadership, the program also includes individual and collective coaching to help YCLs to discover more about themselves, and put their knowledge at the service of others. Climate change is a competitive field, so the final weeks of the immersion will focus on mentoring participants on their personal aspirations and career plans. They will then be ready to go back to their countries, or explore other ones, to work on climate change mitigation and adaptation issues. The organizers will build partnerships with a series of organizations worldwide to ease the relocation of YCL alumni, who will be part of a living community of practice.

Our mission directly contributes to SDG 13 (climate action). We will also explore the program’s links to other SDGs through our academic curriculum and country visits. Our work has a direct impact on quality education (SDG 4), employment opportunities (SDG 8) and partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). This year’s group project will focus on sustainable agriculture (SDG 2) and land use (SDG 15). We will support Endeleza, a non-profit organization seeking to promote human and community development through education, empowerment and sustainability, in scaling its ‘Sustainable Primary School’ program in partnership with reNature Foundation, which helps farmers to change their production method to a sustainable agroforestry system. Planting onions (yes, onions!) in the school yard already generates sufficient income to ensure free food and education to 250 students from the Primary School of Mugae (Meru County, Kenya), and allows to invest in other improvements in the community.

With this group project, YCL participants will have the opportunity to see their impact at the local level, and to support Endeleza in replicating its model in other regions through global partnerships. The group project contributes to the achievement of our main objective: to empower young people worldwide to have a global impact on climate change through their integrated local activities.

With the YCL program, we want to shift the image of young people as “leaders of the future” to the “leaders of today.” Our main goal is to empower a diverse group of young leaders from all over the world with leadership and entrepreneurial skills to be used right now to address climate change. Young people today are more concerned about sustainability and climate change issues than previous generations, but that does not mean that their behaviors and lifestyles are in accordance with the beliefs they hold on those topics. At the YCL program, we are going to work with those concerned young people who have not yet had the opportunity to see how they can act in practice to tackle climate change.

The direct impact of the program is the group project that YCLs are going to work on throughout its duration. They will be in contact with real-life challenges posed by climate change, and will benefit from our support to design innovative solutions for both mitigation and adaptation problems. The indirect impact will be driven by all the content produced by YCLs during those three months. Articles, interviews, videos and other materials, translated into different languages, are expected to help highlight the urgency of climate change, and to share what is already being done around the world to address this challenge. Given that the content is produced by young people, there is also a higher chance that these materials will reach other youth, which is a great way to show the importance of climate action to the younger generations.

Since the program involves participants from different countries who will travel a lot, the carbon footprint from transport emissions is a concern. To offset the carbon footprint of the project, at the end of the program, we will calculate the amount of carbon emissions released, and offset it by planting trees in partnership with Plant-for-the-Planet, an international foundation that organizes tree plantings led by children and young people around the world. Additionally, we will only provide vegetarian meals at our events and, whenever possible, use bicycles to commute. In that way, we will not only promote sustainable transportation and meals, but also invite YCLs to “walk the talk” and lead by example.


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