Youth and 2020 NDCs: A Driving Force for Higher Climate Ambition
Young people and future generations will inherit the worst impacts of the climate crisis and bear the future costs of the decisions made today. As countries prepare to submit updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) this year, there is a unique opportunity to consult and include young people in the process. This is not only in line with the Paris Agreement principle of intergenerational equity, but will also bring diverse, innovative perspectives to the table, recognizing and valuing youth as key actors in advancing ambitious climate action.
“Children and youth bear the biggest brunt of the impacts of climate change and environmental pollution, and young people are ideal agents of change for action on climate and environment,” according to Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera, Director of Programs at UNICEF, an NDC Partnership member since early 2020. "Parties to the Paris Agreement preparing to submit their updated NDCs need to mobilize commitments for inclusive climate action which responds to the calls of children and youth around the world, considering their unique vulnerabilities, their human rights, and their capacities as powerful agents of change.”
The NDC Partnership has already received several requests from countries related to including youth in NDC implementation and enhancement and is working with partners such as UNICEF to provide guidance on including youth in the 2020 NDCs. Several member countries, including Viet Nam, Jamaica, and Costa Rica, offer examples of how to achieve this successfully.
Requests for support related to youth
Eighteen member countries have included some mention of youth in their requests to the Partnership to date. While these requests are small in comparison to other needs, their frequency demonstrates that the imperative to include youth is on countries’ radar. In total, 14 partners are offering support for these requests; 32 percent of youth-related requests have confirmed support, 24 percent have received only indicative support, and 44 percent remain unsupported.
Examples of unsupported youth-related requests on NDC implementation include providing employment opportunities for young people throughout Mozambique’s agrarian chain, introducing environmental education in school textbooks in São Tomé and Príncipe, and setting up a seed fund to support youth entrepreneurship solutions for climate challenges in the Marshall Islands. Moreover, Morocco requests support for planting 4.5 million date palms in order to improve the productivity of oases to combat desertification and rural exodus of young people, and Jordan aims to raise the capacity of the education sector to address climate change, build gardens in public schools using permaculture, and deploy battery-electric bikes for use by university students.
In addition to supporting youth inclusion as part of NDC implementation, specific attention is given to engaging young people in this year’s NDC updating process. Eleven countries have requested support from the Partnership’s Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) to include youth in their 2020 NDCs, with requests focused on engaging youth as part of stakeholder consultations, improving data and MRV systems, and formulating long-term low greenhouse gas and resilient development strategies.
Examples of requests with confirmed partner support for including youth in the 2020 NDCs include involving universities and colleges on NDC research and development in Nepal, supported by Climate Analytics. Additionally, a request to engage existing communities of practice on youth empowerment in NDC implementation, which will facilitate group-based learning and organize climate action dialogues with youth in eSwatini, is being supported by COMESA.
Countries leading the way on engaging young people in the NDC process
Vietnam’s 2020 NDC submission, supported by UNICEF and other partners, offers one example of how young people can be meaningfully involved in the process. There, Vietnam included children and youth through a dedicated section on children’s climate change vulnerabilities across various sectors. Vietnam’s 2020 NDC also includes a strong equity angle, recognizing children with disabilities, children in poor families, migrant children, girls, and those in the Mekong Delta Region, while also highlighting disaster risk reduction within climate change adaptation, community-based models, and the need for communication and raising awareness.
Jamaica, similarly, consulted and engaged youth as it updated its 2020 NDC.
“Jamaica’s NDC has a strong recognition of intergenerational equity and there is a clear understanding of the important role of young people in NDC processes,” explains Dainalyn Swaby, youth representative from Jamaica and a member of the NDC Partnership’s Youth Task Force. “Jamaican youth, including from rural areas, have been involved in a series of engagement sessions to expose young people to the NDC process, and they work closely with the Government’s Climate Change Division and UNDP.”
Jamaica demonstrates that countries may have youth inclusive NDCs and hold youth consultations in their NDC enhancement process, even though they may not explicitly mention the word “youth” in the NDC itself.
In Costa Rica, an elaborate and inclusive NDC updating process is underway.
“Youth are considered a key stakeholder in the updating process of the NDC and serve as experts in imagining future scenarios to build out the NDC,” shares Natalia Gomez Solano, youth co-chair of the NDC Partnership’s Youth Task Force and co-founder of the Youth and Climate Change Costa Rican Network (RJCCCR). “They are not just consulted, but part of a true co-building process, which is quite unique.
“Youth from multiple sectors have been engaged in the process to ensure it is rigorous and captures various perspectives,” she continued. “We are also providing trainings to youth to ensure they are knowledgeable about how they can contribute, now and in the future.”
According to Gomez, the key factor to facilitate success thus far has been political will, which includes support from the Youth Vice Minister, space for youth participation within the Climate Change Ministry, support from UNICEF, and a dedicated focal point within the youth network (RJCCCR) who can coordinate directly with the Costa Rican government.
Through the Partnership’s Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP), UN Environment is also supporting Costa Rica on a strategic communication campaign to raise awareness among key stakeholders, including youth, of the importance of Costa Rica's NDC, its main components, and its implementation. Climate action in Costa Rica is strongly linked to afforestation and forest conservation efforts, and this campaign would open new narratives relevant to national audiences, such as public health, better transport and economic benefit.
UNICEF guidance on including children and youth in 2020 NDCs
The processes to develop 2020 NDC updates and new National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) offer several opportunities for climate policies to better address children and young people. To that end, UNICEF advises countries to consider youth participation in the policy and consultation process, enhance the ambition of mitigation approaches, and include adaptation components with a focus on children and youth. For example, this can be achieved by including adaptation and mitigation co-benefits across the social sectors upon which children depend.
In May 2020, UNICEF published the study Are Climate Change Policies Child Sensitive?, which outlines several key principles around which child-sensitive climate policies would need to be structured:
Ambitious and urgent: Ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures that protect the rights and best interests of the child from harm caused by climate change.
Rights-based: Explicit and meaningful references to children and youth, considering them as rights-holders and important stakeholders.
Holistic and multi-sectoral: Addressing children’s specific risks and vulnerabilities through specific sector interventions.
Inclusive: Informed by and providing for the systematic consultation and meaningful participation of all children, including children of different ages, genders, and social backgrounds at every step of the climate policy-making process and at all levels.
Other UNICEF resources and platforms to assist countries on children and youth engagement in the 2020 NDC updating process include a global map of child and youth climate organizations and tools, the U-report platform, and the Engaged and Heard! Guidelines on Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement report.
NDC Partnership Youth Engagement Plan
The NDC Partnership will continue to work closely with countries and partners to coordinate and implement support for youth-related requests, from 2020 NDC enhancement to NDC implementation well beyond this year. Moreover, in early December 2020, the NDC Partnership will be launching its new Youth Engagement Plan (YEP).
If you would like to learn more about this topic, the webinar recording of “Youth, Climate Action and NDCs” can be viewed on the NDC Partnership’s YouTube Channel and the complete slide deck is available here.
This blog was written by Ralien Bekkers and Jamie Bindon of the NDC Partnership Support Unit, and Amy Wickham, Program Officer for Climate, Energy and Environment at UNICEF.