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NDC Partnership Amplifies the Voice of Tonga's Climate Youth

Now, more than ever, young people must be a part of climate conversations and action in Tonga”, asserts Madeline Lavemai, a member of the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC). Madeline’s words call for increased youth involvement in climate action, but, more importantly, they are also an appeal for leaders and politicians to prioritize and directly involve young people in active decision-making processes.

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​Samsoni Mumui Tupou and Siosiua Veikune, two youth delegates representing Tonga at COP27, agree with the need for greater political involvement. "It may sound cliché”, says Siosiua, “but governments need to first listen to the youth to ensure that we are a meaningful part of both the discussion and the action from the start”. "It’s true", echos Samisoni, “To see greater actual implementation of climate action the youth need to be more than just a mouthpiece; we need to also be physically involved in the actual processes”. 

​Due to the immediate and profound threats faced by climate change, Pacific Island nations such as Tonga have taken the global lead in prioritizing climate action. To facilitate greater youth involvement in achieving national climate goals, the NDC Partnership directly supported two successive iterations of Tonga’s Talanga mo e To'utupu: Youth Climate Change Talanoa, an interactive and youth-focused dialogue forum.  

​Building on the success of the first edition in 2021, the second Youth Climate Change Talanoa took place on September 21, 2022, in collaboration with the Tonga Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications. The hybrid event was attended by over 100 diverse attendees from across the Tongan sociopolitical landscape, including representatives from various tertiary and vocational institutions, NGOs and youth groups, government agencies, development partners, and donor agencies.  

​“A ‘Talanoa’ is where you come together; where conversations happen and experiences are shared”, states Samisoni, indicating how the purpose of the event is not only to amplify young voices, but also ensure that the right ears are in the room to listen. "Many of our youth are the ones on the front line, literally seeing their islands sinking. After the tsunami, there were a few relocated communities, but the rationale behind the response is ‘disaster’, not ’climate change’, which is contributing to sea level rise and thus more devastation. So, we decided to establish a climate action platform and make sure it involves those that really need the support; the youth. Having the voices of youth reflected in our NDC is an important starting point for determining the course of national priorities.


Youth panelists at 2022 NCCAW

​Youth Panelists at 2022 NCCAW Youth Climate Change Talanoa 

​This annual event creates a dedicated, high-level platform for young people to meaningfully engage in national climate processes together with other diverse stakeholders, increasing the momentum of Tonga’s national ambitions and helping to identify fundamental gaps and opportunities for increased youth involvement in climate planning and implementation mechanisms. 

​Akesiu Leua Fifita, Head of the Mitigation Division under the Department of Climate Change and the Project Coordinator for the Fourth National Communication, notes that Tonga's sustainable future is inherently reliant on greater youth involvement in climate action: “Their energy, ideas, and commitment are catalysts for change, so by empowering our young leaders, we nurture a sense of ownership, driving innovative solutions to climate challenges. We must build a resilient nation, where the voices of our youth shape policies, inspire action, and safeguard our precious environment for generations to come."   

​Alongside the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the initial implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the world has witnessed a groundswell of young people calling for significant climate action. This has had a profound impact on public climate awareness and the spurring on of both national and global climate commitments. 

​The NDC Partnership, together with a growing number of member countries and implementing partners, are working to ensure that young people can impactfully build on this momentum; that, as agents of implementation, they have meaningful platforms for engagement and a say in national climate action. 

​The NDC Partnership emphasizes the importance of involving young people in decision-making processes and policy discussions, directly leading and supporting several youth-led or youth-focused platforms such as the Youth Engagement Plan (YEP), the NDC Partnership Knowledge Portal, and the annual Youth Engagement Forum (YEF). Through directly prioritizing the inclusion of youth voices in national and international climate dialogues, the Partnership is helping to build the capacity of young people towards influencing climate policies and actions.  

​"In our pursuit of sustainable development and climate resilience, the NDC Partnership recognizes that youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but the change-makers of today”, notes Amanda Mckee, NDC Partnership Director of Knowledge & Learning. “The Partnership reaffirms our steadfast support for the Kingdom of Tonga and embraces the invaluable contributions of Tongan youth in shaping a better future for their nation and the world. Together, we strive to build a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable planet for generations to come.”