Celebrating COP27 wins for young people

January 25, 2023
Youth climate protest

The partnerships developed at COP27 will yield positive returns for climate action and multi-dimensional sustainable development goals.

Photo: UNDP

Historically, young people have been left out of decision-making processes that affect their lives, yet they bear the biggest brunt of climate change, an important issue affecting humanity both now and in the future. Ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) where countries met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to assess progress and strengthen commitments in tackling climate change, youth voices desperately called for inclusion and inter-generational solidarity in climate negotiations and decision-making processes.

This call to include children and young people, made notable progress at COP 27 by delivering significant “firsts” that young people and UNDP would like to acknowledge.

The first ever youth-led climate forum, the Sharm el-Sheikh youth climate dialogue, was organized by the COP27 Presidency, which kick-started the Youth and Future Generation Day. This is a positive response to the call for inter-generational solidarity. It brought together high-level policymakers with young representatives from the Conference of Youth (COY17) who presented the ﷟Global Youth Statement. This synthesizes collective policy demands of children and young people across the world. 

The first ever Children and Youth Pavilion was the most dynamic and creative hub at the venue, daily animated by youth-led side events, artworks, and live performances. The strategic positioning at the blue zone provided young people with access to negotiations, networking and discussion opportunities with private sector, civil society, activists and delegates from different countries. This allowed for sharing of innovative ideas, creation of new partnerships and strengthening of existing ones.

Youth climate protest

A generational test within the UN and for national decision-making can include current and future generations in decision-making processes and promote long term thinking.

Photo: UNDP

For the first time in the history of COP, children and youth  were mentioned respectively seven and 11 times in the Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan. These articles recognized the important role of children and youth as agents of change in addressing and responding to the climate crisis, and encouraged parties to include them both in their processes for designing and implementing climate policy at a national and international levels and in national delegations attending climate negotiations. This was also the first time as well that COP appointed a Youth Envoy, Omnia El Omrani.

Establishment of a new loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries, disproportionately affected by climate disasters is an opportunity to enhance adaptation and improve resilience. New pledges, totaling more than US$230 million, were made to the Adaptation Fund. Children and young people have been long advocating the establishment of this fund,and were particularly vocal throughout the two weeks at COP leading to this milestone decision.

Youth climate protest

Young people continue to call for a wholesome transformation of our economies and societies in order to achieve our global climate goals.

Photo: UNDP

As we celebrate the landmark achievements for children, youth, future generations and the planet at COP27, we also acknowledge that the journey to effective inclusion has only begun and propose the following considerations to be taken.

There continues to be a need for a more enabling environment for children and young people to access and contribute to decision-making processes. Young people at COP27 mainly took the observer role and were minimally included in the negotiation tables. This continues to stifle their voices and inhibit equal access.  

A generational test within the UN and for national decision-making is a tool that can include current and future generations in decision-making processes and promote long term thinking.

More support is needed for representatives from the Global South, as well as Indigenous communities and Small Island Developing States who face severer consequences of climate change and biodiversity crisis and yet are often blocked from international summits because of lack of resources or punitive visa requirements that their western counterparts don’t face.

Structuring of the loss and damage fund to significantly include youth considerations, support and embrace youth-led innovations, capacity building and knowledge sharing for adoption and mitigation.

The development of mechanisms to ensure parties are held to account to follow through the inclusion commitments of Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan,  at the national and international levels.

Finally, that partnerships, connections and networks developed at COP27 between young people and key stakeholders will yield positive returns towards the achievement of climate action and multi-dimensional sustainable development goals.

So far youth’s collective action has been successful in problematizing global climate inaction from existing systems, adoption of a justice language and creating momentum for climate action. However, young people continue to call for a wholesome transformation of our economies and societies in order to achieve our global climate goals. No corner ought to go untouched – energy, industry, agriculture, transport, institutions, individuals. To achieve this, the youth will play a critical role in holding their national governments accountable for the implementation of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), where countries set targets and defined strategies for mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and for adapting to climate impacts. At UNDP we continue to support countries on eliminating barriers to this ambitious transition, in particular by formulating a systemic, integrated approach through governance and policy frameworks, inclusive leadership, transparency systems, blended climate finance and implementation of NDC objectives.

YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, awarded UNDP as “Outstanding Partner” during YOUNGO Ceremony of Awards at COP, and acknowledged UNDP’s partnership and support as instrumental in providing the highest quality programming and information to youth climate leaders, essential assistance in delivering landmark gatherings and historic youth policy.

UNDP partners with young people, youth-led organizations and networks around the world to achieve the Global Goals. Join the Youth Global Space to learn more about existing projects, initiatives and platforms and engage with UNDP and other UN experts and stakeholders. Follow all the latest updates on youth on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to The Loop: UNDP youth empowerment update to get insights from UNDP work on and with youth.