By Marte Hellema, Youth Co:Lab
Climate change is arguably the biggest threat our world faces today. The consequences range from countries disappearing, famine and widespread destruction of lives and properties. Using innovation, creativity and passion, young people are among the strongest advocates for change. But change is not easy, and they require all our support to make it happen.
Asia and the Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world when it comes to climate change. Whether it is rising sea levels, extreme weather, heat waves, droughts, or flooding, the impact on the daily lives of many across the region is very real, particularly among vulnerable communities. For example, on average 43,000 people in our region are killed per year in storms, floods, and landslides. And disasters cost the region an estimated 675 billion USD each year.
Young people are among those most significantly impacted by the consequences of climate change. Not just because they are expected to bear witness and suffer the effects in the future, but because the consequences today impact their education, employment opportunities and general socio-economic well-being.
Not surprisingly, young people are therefore among the most critical when it comes to the lack of real action taken by their leaders. A recent UNDP survey found that, while 63 percent of the people in Asia and the Pacific recognize climate change as a global emergency, young people are more likely than any other age group to do so.
And they are doing something about it. Across the region young people are taking action. Becoming actively involved in their communities, raising awareness through campaigns or social media, and setting up innovative businesses to address the needs and the challenges created by climate change.
But they cannot do this alone. Young people are underrepresented in decision making around climate action and their concerns are often not taken seriously. A lack of support and investments in their efforts means that in those instances where they are able to take viable action or set up ground-breaking initiatives, it is hard for them to grow their businesses to a scale needed to make permanent change.
That is why Youth Co:Lab, an initiative by UNDP and Citi Foundation, has been and will continue to support young social entrepreneurs across Asia and the Pacific in their quest to counter climate change and its consequences, while also advocating for greater support and the creation of enabling environment for these young people to further the change they are driving in their communities and the world at large. The COP-26 in Glasgow – to be held from 31 October till 12 November 2021 – offers a great opportunity to elevate the voices of youth, which is exactly what we are intending to do.
Youth Co:Lab is currently operating in over 28 countries and territories across the region, and in many climate action has been a priority. Whether in the form of new partnerships, dedicated accelerators to scale up young people attempting to tackle climate change or research to showcase the ways in which young people are already making a difference, Youth Co:Lab is stepping up its support for young climate activists.
And we are just getting started. We understand the reality of the climate emergency in our region and know that young people can and are central to any action or solution. Both on a country level and regionally, Youth Co:Lab will stand with the young people in our region, so together we can make the necessary change happen.
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.