Opening Remarks by Mr James George at the International Youth Forum on Green Development at Eco Forum Global Guiyang

July 10, 2023

Mr George delivers opening remarks at the International Youth Forum on Green Development at Eco Forum Global Guiyang

Mr. Shapkat Wushur, Leader of the All-China Youth Federation  
Mr. Dong Jialu, Deputy Governor of Guizhou Province

Distinguished guests, ladies, gentleman and especially all our passionate youth climate champions – good morning!

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme in China, I’m honored to join you this morning.

We are gathered here in Guiyang - united by our common passion and agenda in ensuring we are living and creating a sustainable future for all - everywhere.

As all of us are aware, in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was adopted by all the United Nations member states.

It aimed to set a roadmap for a better future for both people and planet.

Unfortunately, in 2023 - at the halfway point - global progress towards achieving this collective vision and development agenda leaves much more to be done.

Only 12% of SDG targets are on track, and we have stalled or even regressed on 30% of them.

Human development has seen a global regression for two years in a row.

With all the technological advances at our fingertips, 95 million more people live in poverty last year.

Hunger is at its highest level since 2005.

This distressing trend - predating COVID 19 - has been made worse by a combination of global crises including the devastating socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

The urgency of the situation is clear.  Lets take the climate.

The summer has only recently begun, and we have already witnessed record temperatures in China and mega wildfires across a number of countries globally.

Ocean waters are warming faster, shattering previous long-held records.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We continue to hear of the paradigm of choices - that nature and economic development are mutually exclusive.

This has to change – now.

Regrettably, it is the younger generation who will be most affected by humanity’s failure to curb its excesses and the harm unleashed on the planet.

To turn the tide and to re-orient the world on a trajectory to achieve sustainable development, immediate transformative and systemic action is needed - and the United Nations is looking at the world’s 1.9 billion young people as torchbearers for change.

As noted by the United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed at the 2023 Ecosoc Youth Forum:

We must acknowledge that youth have the energy, creativity and drive to take the lead on social, economic and environmental change. Little can be achieved without their meaningful inclusion.

Worldwide - young leaders are emerging, demanding urgent action on the climate crisis and calling for unity in the pursuit of green development.

At UNDP, we are committed to harnessing the energy, creativity and ideas of the youth to ensure we can jointly and effectively tackle global challenges and help envision, design and advance sustainable development.

In China, our Movers Programme and Youth Co:Lab initiatives equip youth with the tools and knowledge to navigate these complex times.

Through comprehensive training programs, we are nurturing the next generation of sustainability champions and entrepreneurs.  

In 2022, UNDP Asia-Pacific and UNFCCC launched YECAP, an initiative aimed at empowering young people to take decisive climate action.

Today's Forum, in partnership with the All-China Youth Federation and the Guizhou government, is a critical step in anchoring YECAP in China, equipping youth with enhanced climate knowledge, scaling up climate actions and enhancing green skills. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Achieving the 17 SDGs requires active participation.

Today, I urge you to embark on two simple actions that can have an immediate impact:  
First, let us embrace a sustainable lifestyle by rejecting single-use plastics.

Each year, the world produces a staggering 438 million tons of new plastic, with less than 10% of plastic recycled.

It is contaminating our soils, oceans, food chains and the human body.

Building a plastic-free world is critical to our survival and preventing worsening biodiversity loss and environmental damage. 
Second, acquire new green skills and be the change that you want to see in the world that is grounded by knowledge.  
The green transition is reshaping the world of education and work, and those equipped with green skills will be primed to lead the charge towards a sustainable future.  
Equip yourselves with the necessary expertise and knowledge on for example - renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and green entrepreneurship.

Even if you don’t pursue these as professional jobs, the knowledge and skills will enable you to see the world in a completely different way.

I am aware and very pleased that some of you are already trailblazing and taking these steps to champion a new world.

Please continue spreading the word and being the influencers championing sustainable development.

In closing, I would like to extend my gratitude to our hosts and partners, the All-China Youth Federation and the Guizhou Youth Federation, and all who have made this event possible.

Together, let us continue working hand in hand to imagine and create a greener, more sustainable world for future generations. Thank you.