COP27 is Africa’s COP. It must include young people in spaces that address Africa’s climate challenges. 60% of Africans are under 25, and more than a third of the continent’s population is between the ages of 15 and 34. Young people aren’t just ‘youth activists’, we are experts and professionals and we are on the front line of this crisis. COP27 would be incomplete without our voices.
COP27 is being held in Egypt, a country that contributes to less than 4% of global emissions, in a continent that despite contributing the least to the climate crisis, suffers some of its biggest impacts. Africa is suffering what it did not cause, threatening the livelihoods of over 100 million people due to its low adaptive capacity, and socioeconomic growth. Africa today loses between $7 billion and $15 billion a year to climate change and it doesn’t have access to the financing it needs to adapt.
Young people in Africa – including those not yet born – will be burdened with the responsibility of driving the outcomes of future COPs and bringing about the change our current governments have so far failed to implement. We must be included in shaping our own future. It is only right that our voices, the voices of young African climate activists, are listened to when making policy decisions. We are demanding action for a sustainable future. We are making noise, running youth-led initiatives, and building campaigns. Listen and include us.
Ahead of COP27, through youth-led initiatives such as YOUNGO we are organising pre COP events to prepare other young people for COP27. There are local conferences of youth (LCOY) across all countries, regional conferences of youth (RCOY) across all regions and global conferences of youth (COY17). We are committed and ready to drive meaningful change. At the end of these conferences there will be statements outlining our demands and calls to action for global leaders to urgently address this crisis.
I am from Nigeria and right now 33 out of 36 states are affected by flooding. Over 600 people have died and some 1.5 million families have been displaced. We are demanding climate justice; we are demanding compensation for loss and damage and we are demanding effective climate finance to mitigate the impact of climate change on our countries and communities. Many youth activists have first-hand experience of what the impact of climate change actually feels like. Thanks to the Iris Project and The Ashley Lashley Foundation, I am able to attend COP but there are many youth activists who aren’t. These are the people who should be given the platform to state their demands. Youth activists have written national youth statements and action plan documents, such as the African Youth Climate Action Plan, a document collectively developed by climate activists in Africa. It is important that we listen to these statements and pay attention to what young people are saying.
Young people’s participation at COP27 is essential. Not because we are young but because we have valuable experience and competence. Climate activists from across the world must unite their voices to demand solutions to the climate crisis posed on their communities, countries, and continents. Global leaders and negotiators must get it right and make informed decisions that address the climate change challenges specific to all regions. COP27 must not be a failure!
Written by Yazid Mikail, Iris Project Advisor