Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Youth voices more essential than ever to drive the climate change conversation

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma’s virtual opening speech at the Youth4Climate2021: Driving Ambition Event, hosted by the Italian government.

By Alok Sharma

We are now just over 30 days away from COP26 and young voices, youth voices are more essential than ever to drive the climate change conversation, and I want to thank our Italian partners, my good friend minister Cingolani, for all the efforts in helping deliver this event, and indeed for our partnership since 2019.

Huge thanks to all the delegates for your dedication and tenacity in making it to Milan. Thousands of young people applied to be standing where you are today, so congratulations on being selected to take part. Wherever I have been in the world, I have been struck by the passion and the commitment of young people on climate. Whether that’s in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, or Nepal.

But I am also really aware of the fear and anxiety many people feel and that young people feel. And of course, the huge frustration that accompanies the knowledge that, to date, the response of world leaders has not come close to meeting the scale of the climate crisis. Indeed, earlier this month we saw the results of a global survey of young people on climate, which found that over half fear that humanity is doomed.

Frankly, that shames my generation. But today’s world leaders have the opportunity on the road to and at COP26 to redeem themselves. To make ambitious commitments and take action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

To keep 1.5 degrees within reach. To protect people and nature from climate change. And to deliver the funds to support developing countries. All over the planet, young people are leading the charge for action to combat climate change.

Fighting for their future. Fighting for our futures. And together, your hard work and perseverance has helped to move this issue right up the political agenda.

We recognise, I recognise, your passion, your influence, and what is at stake for your generation. And it has been so important for the COP26 Presidency to have the voices of young people at the heart of our discussions. It is why I established the COP26 civil society and youth advisory council to ensure that the Presidency has benefitted from your support and advice. And I’m really pleased that one of the council’s co-chairs, Elizabeth Wathuti, is with you [today] in Milan.

As you will be aware, we are holding a Youth and Public Empowerment Day at COP26. And we are working with youth partners, including YOUNGO, the children’s and youth constituency of the United Nations’ climate change wing, to organise the programme. We have also endorsed the 16th UN Conference of Youth, or COY16, which will take place in Glasgow ahead of COP26. And all of us in the COP26 team are looking forward to seeing that final Declaration that you put together during this conference and taking it to Pre-COP and COP itself.

Through conversations on a whole range of topics, from a green recovery, to adaptation and resilience, and honing your influence locally, nationally and internationally, you are absolutely helping to deliver a better future. Many of you have expertise in specific areas. And we want to hear your creative, ambitious ideas.

In May this year, I gave a speech at an onshore wind farm near Glasgow to mark six months to go to COP26. And ahead of that speech I asked my two daughters, who are around the same age as many of you, what message I should deliver to world leaders.

“Tell them”, they said, “pick the planet.” I hear them and I hear you.  Now is the time for leaders of the biggest economies, the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, the G20 nations to make much bolder commitments to cut emissions. Now is the time for the developed countries to make good on their promise of money to support developing countries deal with the rising impact of climate change.

And now is the time for world leaders to deliver an outcome at Glasgow that we can all be proud of. And we still have time to write our future. A future with clean air and nature restored, where the world is protected from the worst effects of climate change, and where we can create jobs and prosperity without harming our planet.

I’m straining every sinew to deliver at COP26, and your voices and your support give me strength. Let’s shape the future together. I wish you a very productive three days and I am looking forward to seeing you on Thursday.



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