6 October 2023, Geneva, Switzerland - Climate change is a global issue that requires targeted, adaptable, and tailored solutions. A solution that works well in one country, may not necessarily work as well in another country or region. This was evident at the recent Youth Climate Dialogue which brought together high school students from six countries as part of UNITAR’s 60th Anniversary celebrations.
What would the ideal solutions be for France, Japan, Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates?
That’s what students from six different schools strived to answer during the Global Youth Climate Dialogue (YCD), organized in a hybrid setting at Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, by the One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UN CC:Learn) on 4th October 2023.
For more than two hours, these six groups of students discussed the implications of climate change focusing mainly on innovative solutions in their respective communities and countries. The schools - Brookhouse School (Nairobi, Kenya), Folweni High School (Durban, South Africa), GEMS Modern Academy (Dubain, United Arab Emirates), Gymnase Burier (La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland), Hiroshima Global Academy (Hiroshima, Japan) and Lycée International de Ferney Voltaire (Ferney Voltaire, France) - exchanged and challenged each other by focusing on the various solutions presented. Solutions discussed ranged from carbon capture and storage technologies in the UAE to the management of forest fires in France.
The students provided thought-provoking and context-specific insights during the discussion.
The Swiss students, for instance, spoke about the melting glaciers that are changing their country’s landscapes and having serious implications for people and ecosystems while Hiroshima students highlighted rising sea levels. Focusing on the solutions, students from France noted the use of satellite imagery could help their country to better map and manage forest fires and the usage of snow canons that could potentially mitigate the lack of snow and melting glaciers, a solution which raised a lot of questions from the other participants in terms of its sustainability, given the energy required and its impacts on underground water resources.
Students from South Africa touched on increasing recycling and reusing to reduce the problem of littering which many community members, who are not aware of the consequences on global warming, tend to burn. They also discussed public mobility and how they believe that public incentives can help increase the uptake of public transportation and consequently reduce emissions from private vehicles. The UAE presented technological solutions such as carbon capture and storage as well as development of sustainable low carbon cities. The students in Japan, as part of their solutions, discussed issues related to energy transition and alternative methods of rice production. Finally, Kenya spoke about the effects of climate change on pastoralists and how this is leading to forced migration.
As a celebratory event part of the UNITAR’s 60th anniversary, UN CC:Learn invited four schools from countries that were part of UNITAR’s original Board of Trustees back in 1965 – France, Japan, Kenya and South Africa. Switzerland was invited as the main UN CC:Learn donor and co-creator of the YCD initiative, and the United Arab Emirates, a long-standing YCD partner over the years, came on board to bring its experience from previous dialogues. The French and Swiss schools attended the event in-person at Palais des Nations and the other four connected online, allowing for an interactive and global exchange between the six different school, which otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn from each other.
High-level guest kicked off the Global Youth Climate Dialogue.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Nikhil Seth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNITAR’s Executive Director, reminded us that:
‘the UN Secretary General no longer refers to global warming but rather global boiling. Try not to see this as a problem owned by others, like businesses or governments. We all need to own the problem in order to solve it.
The event was also attended by H.E. Ambassador Kozo HONSEI, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Japan of Japan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, and Mr. Angus Mackay, Head of the UN CC:Learn Secretariat and Director, Division for Planet at UNITAR.
H.E. Mr. Kozo Honsei stressed the importance of youth in driving positive change.
‘Young people have the power to change the world. Your ideas and perspectives from diverse backgrounds will help to lead the world in a better direction’. - H.E. Ambassador Kozo Honsei, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Japan of Japan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Angus Mackay said:
’You are the climate generation, and this is a fact, through no fault of your own. But this does not mean that you are powerless. As a species humans are often at their best when under pressure’. – Mr. Angus Mackay, Head of the UN CC:Learn Secretariat and Director, Division for Planet, UNITAR
The Youth Climate Dialogues are a UN CC:Learn initiative that provides a platform for youth to meet other young people to discuss climate change, its impacts, and the different solutions for it. It is a live debate usually held between two schools and carried out in three phases: preparation, during which individuals prepare presentations on climate change from their perspective and think about questions they want ask to the other school; the debate itself; a period of personal reflection and learning triggered by the process (this latter part is often based on post surveys of participants and may influence their attitudes and behaviors in the long term).
One overall conclusion of this Global Youth Climate Dialogue is that while the effects of climate change are always very local in nature and differ from one place to another, so are the solutions; often driven by the interests and perspectives of specific cultures within which they are derived. More exchanges and sharing of ideas on solutions would be beneficial for increased and concerted climate action.