Earth Today | Study shows youth advantage in climate change response
THE VALUE of youth participation in planning for and adapting to climate change was recently affirmed by new research from the Adaptation Fund (AF), in their assessment of a number of their projects from across the developing world.
“Youth have developed innovative approaches to adapt to climate change when participating in project interventions, in terms of both processes and products. Youth change and improve how project interventions are designed and implemented, as well as conceptualise and execute out-of-the-box solutions to developing new products,” noted the July 2022 study, titled Youth Engagement in Climate Chang Adaptation: Lessons from the Adaptation Fund Portfolio of Projects and Programmes.
“They have the capacities to develop innovative processes as they integrate knowledge about their localities with new adaptive management ideas. They are usually open-minded about new ideas, feel at ease by trial-and-error methods, and are excited about tangible solutions to climate change impacts. The way youth innovate is by transforming and rooting techniques, using information technologies, and building upon local knowledge,” the study added.
Among the key findings from the study, which was done to “understand the enabling factors, drivers and barriers to youth engagement in the Adaptation Fund portfolio”, is that “overall, projects have not had a strategic approach to involving youth, specifically, as active agents in adapting to climate change; that is, formulating and deciding on adaptation pathways”.
Fortunately, however, this is changing “as the most recent approved projects (2019-2022) pay special attention to youth and conceive them as enablers of adaptation”.
Included in the roles that youth have held across select AF projects, such as in the Seychelles, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Chile, are ‘builders’, taking hands-on actions in response to climate threats; ‘knowledge brokers’, sharing climate change adaptation concepts and practical techniques to increase uptake in adaptation measures; and ‘community guardians’, who protect the well-being of their communities, while facilitating dialogue and mobilising residents around common goals, given the common threats.
They also function, the study revealed, as ‘social entrepreneurs’, developing or scaling up adaptation ideas through investment of time and other resources to generate value for their communities; and as ‘change makers’, who question the status quo and push for change toward a more sustainable development course.
The study has, meanwhile, advanced a variety of recommendations to deepen youth engagement in climate change adaptation and ensure their meaningful participation.
These include introducing coaching programmes for youth leadership in skills and project management; supporting the establishment of youth networks; enabling youth to discuss their views on their communities with older adults; and enabling youth to articulate their own needs and desires in the adaptation to climate change impacts.
According to the study, it is necessary that youth, who will be “exposed longer and more harshly to climate change impacts than older generations”, be given a shot at meaningful participation in the response to climate change.
And this, not only because they stand to lose the most from climate change, but because they also have so much that they can contribute to the effort.
“… Young people generate a good amount of the dynamism, creativity and innovation, open-mindedness, and flexibility that propel societies. Youth are highly motivated to take on challenges, and many of them are willing to make the necessary adjustments for a better world. Young people have a good overview of climate change, particularly at the global level, and many are engaged in tackling climate risks,” the study noted.
“When confronted with potential climate impacts, youth are often willing to make uncomfortable life changes, such as accepting a lower level of well-being than older generations … . Of course, youth have personal aspirations and dreams. For some, a fulfilling life includes leading their communities towards a sustainable path,” it added.