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Opinions of Thursday, 18 November 2021

Columnist: Kwabena Ameyaw

Rethinking Climate Change from the youth perspective

The writer, Kwabena Ameyaw The writer, Kwabena Ameyaw

Climate change affects every facet of life. Heatwaves, flooding, drought, wildfires, and tidal waves to mention a few have become a common feature across different parts of the world. Children and young people are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the global crisis.

However, the perspectives of young people and children on climate change are often overlooked. The impact of climate change on youth and children is rarely discussed. The bigger question remains, how do we amplify youth voices on climate change in Ghana?

The stark reality of Climate change

Every year, world leaders, climate activists, policymakers and stakeholders assemble at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to dialogue and formulate policies on climate change.

This year's COP 26 presented a fine opportunity for the world to show real intent and tangible action towards a green and sustainable future.

The decisions taken at COP26 must reflect the urgency of the time. Millions of lives and livelihoods are at stake. The existence of the human race is threatened – Code Red for humanity.

According to the Children’s Climate Risk Index by UNICEF, an estimated 1 billion children (nearly half of the world's children) live in extremely high-risk countries.

Also, an estimated 330 million children (1 in 7 children globally) are exposed to at least five major climate and environmental hazards, shocks, and stresses.

Data suggests that 50% of the world's population falls under age 30. This means young people will bear the greater consequence of the unfolding climate crisis. However, the youth are conspicuously missing from the highest climate decision-making table. The concerns and opinions of young people are often relegated to the background.

The effect of climate change on these groups (children and the youth) is far-reaching. Failure to address climate change will spell doom for the Ghanaian youth. The global crisis will intensify unemployment, migration, inequality, and food insecurity, to mention a few.

Reflecting on LCOY and YCC Ghana

From the Ghanaian perspective, young climate activists in Ghana organised the maiden edition of the Local Conference of Youth (LCOY). This marked a huge leap in addressing climate change at the grassroots level in Ghana.

One of the major outcomes of LCOY is the development of a National Youth Climate Change statement. The outcomes of the statement must be assimilated into Ghana's national climate policy.

The LCOY also culminated in the establishment of the Youth Climate Council in Ghana. YCC Ghana represents a fine opportunity to give a common voice to young climate activists/groups in Ghana.

There is a seemingly lack of focus and unity within the youth climate space. Therefore, it has become imperative for climate activists in Ghana to present a united front.

YCC will act as a springboard for young climate activists and organizations in Ghana. It will create a safe space for passionate young climate activists. A unified youth climate front will change the status quo. LCOY is a poignant reminder that the Ghanaian youth can thrive when given the necessary support.

The way forward

There is empirical evidence to show that youth-led action generates a positive impact. The Ghanaian youth can become forerunners in the fight against climate change. Government must leverage the expertise of young professionals in various sectors of Ghana's economy to drive the climate agenda.

Ghana's climate policies must be inclusive and youth-centered. The climate perspectives, views, interests of young Ghanaians must be well-documented and captured at all levels of government policy.

There must be a conscious effort to expand opportunities for young people. Government and the relevant agencies must establish a special fund allocated to mitigation/adaptation for the youth. Opportunities in the form of scholarships, training, etc. must also be accessible to the Ghanaian youth.

The youth can also leverage social media and digital tools (podcast, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) to create awareness on climate change. The Ghanaian youth deserves representation at the highest climate decision-making table. They must be allowed to influence policy decisions and effect the desired change.

The future belongs to the youth. Mere rhetoric? Are young people the future? Amid the unfolding climate crisis, is there any future to look forward to? The world must move beyond glamourous speeches and edge into the realm of real action and practical solutions.

Perhaps, it is time for world leaders, policymakers, climate activists, and stakeholders to look at climate change through the lens of young people.