Tracing youth: ICLEI’s youth engagement at COP28

Did you know that half of the planet’s inhabitants are 35 or younger and will represent 60% of the urban population by the end of 2030? These facts reinforce the urgency to amplify youth voices and ensure their active participation in steering a sustainable future. Here’s how ICLEI took charge to involve youth in shaping the global climate dialogue at COP28.


Youth at the countdown to COP28

In the lead-up to COP28, ICLEI kicked off its presence at the COY18 – the 18th Conference of Youth with the official youth constituency of UNFCCC, YOUNGO, which took place from 26-28 November in Dubai. With over 800 participants, this is the largest youth conference in the world. 

ICLEI advocated for critical discussions on youth inclusion and leadership at the local level. This symbiotic relationship, often overlooked, emerged as a central theme, urging stakeholders to capitalize on existing synergies.

The outcome of COY18 is the Global Youth Statement, a declaration of climate justice that, among many other issues, urged COP28 Parties to work collaboratively and equitably with children and youth in decision-making processes by creating Youth Advisory Boards at the local and national levels. 

Some numbers on the Global Youth Statement: Input from youth from 160 countries across the world and is supported by tens of thousands of signatories, accumulating over 750,000 inputs globally, which took approximately 53 thousand hours of work and was done through the efforts of 1,500 volunteers. 


Institutionalization of Youth Climate Champion role 

On 30 November, the ‘Presidency Youth Climate Champion’, paragraph 6 of the text ”Decides that a youth climate champion between the ages of 18 and 35 will be appointed to act on behalf of the Presidency of the Conference of the Parties and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement to facilitate the enhancement of the meaningful, inclusive engagement of youth in climate action, including within the UNFCCC process.”

From Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Community Development, was designated as the first-ever Youth Climate Champion with a Ministerial role. 

ICLEI welcomes this new decision and congratulates the COP28 Presidency on this achievement to accelerate and enable youth engagement across all regions and groups of youth.


Youth-led Local Stocktakes: Shaping global climate priorities

The Local Governments and Municipal Authority Constituency (LGMA) to the UNFCCC, with ICLEI serving as the focal point, has been at the forefront of advocating to include local inputs into the Global Stocktake. Under the #Stocktake4ClimateEmergency initiative, 26 cities and regions organized local events featuring significant youth participation through a partnership with YOUNGO.

This collaboration paved the way for three youth-led Local Stocktakes in Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; and Kampala, Uganda. What did the youth convey? Four key outcomes were spotlighted on 6 December at the Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change:

  1. More inclusive planning processes – emphasizing the participation of climate-vulnerable and marginalized groups. 
  2. Adaptive governance structure. A structure that allows for swift policy adjustments to accelerate implementation, with strong measures to ensure accountability.
  3. Capacity building through climate education in schools and upskilling youth for green economy jobs. 
  4. Increasing access to finance. According to the Youth Climate Justice Fund, less than 1% of global climate finance currently supports youth projects. Fund access is vital to implement and replicate youth-led initiatives to achieve collective climate goals. 

Watch the webcast.


Youth Climate Forum: Voices from local governments

ICLEI Members, Mayor Trevino Forbes of Walvis Bay, Namibia, and the Avellaneda Municipality, Argentina, represented local governments at the Youngo-led Climate Forum on 8 December. 

Walvis Bay has set an example with its Junior City Council, established in 2019 and led by an elected Junior Mayor, along with members from schools and high schools. This Junior Council collaborates directly with the Senior Council to integrate youth voices into the city’s decision-making processes. During the event, Mayor Forbes urged local leaders to advocate for initiatives that actively involve youth in their governance systems.

These insights were integrated into the COP28 Presidency event dedicated to “Youth, Children, Education and Skills Day.”

Watch the webcast.


Best practices and experiences sharing: A collaborative approach

8 December, Youth, Children, Education and Skills Day, witnessed ICLEI co-leading two impactful sessions. “The climate catalysts: Youth and local leaders spearheading action in the climate emergency,” in collaboration with YOUNGO and the Marrakesh Partnership, showcased best practices and experiences between youth and local governments, featuring city representatives from Dublin, Ireland; Morona Santiago, Ecuador; and the Italian Government. Youth leaders were also present.

Walter Osigai Etepesit, co-founder and co-director of Marafiki United Youth Initiative and lead of the Kampala Local Stocktake, Uganda, said, “The Local Stocktake allowed us to bring youth voices from different cities in Uganda to formulate one unified statement of what we envision. More than ever, young people in Uganda are engaging in climate action, and I promise today that the future is bright and we are moving in the right direction.”

Read Walter’s story about Kampala’s Local Stocktake and watch the session’s webcast.

The second ICLEI session, “Synergizing local, youth, and Global Stocktake: Aligning global policy and local implementation,” a UNFCCC side event with YOUNGO and CareAboutClimate, delved into increasing youth voices in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Challenges in bringing local contributions and upscaling youth for green jobs were discussed. This event saw participation from YOUNGO, European Energy Youth Network, CareAboutClimate, ICLEI, city representatives from Turku, Finland, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the youth lead of the Accra Local Stocktake, Richard Matey.

During the session, Yunus Arikan, ICLEI Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, called local youth to “Come and help us. Let’s make these decisions not just stay in the boardrooms of the UNFCCC; let’s bring them to the streets, let’s bring them to life. We can do it together and take these decisions further with youth voices on board.”

ICLEI also highlighted its 2023 resource “Unlocking the power of youth” a checklist for local and regional governments to address the need for clear and practical steps to engage with youth in their communities. The checklist was developed with the support of YOUNGO, Student Energy and UNICEF. 

Watch the webcast.


Youth in the energy transition

On the same day, ICLEI participated in the Finnish Pavilion event, emphasizing the pivotal role of youth in the energy transition. The session, hosted by the European Youth Energy Network and YES-Europe, highlighted the need for collaborative efforts in shaping the future of sustainable energy.

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