Young People Just Got a Louder Voice on Climate Change - and Could Soon Be Shaping Policy

Sophie Kiderlin / CNBC
Young People Just Got a Louder Voice on Climate Change - and Could Soon Be Shaping Policy COP27 was another milestone for young climate activists as they became official climate policy stakeholders under the ACE Action Plan. (photo: Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Young people have long been at the forefront of discussions and activism around climate change.

This year’s COP27 was another milestone for them — they became official stakeholders in climate policy under the ACE action plan, which was created at COP27 in Egypt over the last few weeks.

Young people’s voices and opinions will now be much more impactful when it comes to the design and implementation of climate policies, explains Hailey Campbell, one of the negotiators who made it happen.

“Official recognition as stakeholders in the ACE Action Plan gives young people the international backing we need to demand our formal inclusion in climate decision-making and implementation,” she told CNBC’s Make It.

Campbell is also the ACE co-contact point for YOUNGO, the youth constituency for the United Nations’ framework convention for climate change and the co-executive director of the U.S.-based organization Care About Climate.

What is the ACE action plan?

ACE stands for Action for Climate Empowerment and is outlined in article 12 of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Improving education and awareness around climate change by making research easily accessible is one of its aims. Another goal of the article, and the new plan developed at COP27 to support it, is making sure governments and organizations around the world work together on policies and take opinions from the public and stakeholder groups into account when making decisions.

Srishti Singh from the Indian Youth Climate Network, who worked alongside Campbell at COP27, told CNBC’s Make It that the new ACE plan is key when it comes to different groups being considered in climate policy.

“Strengthening ACE in climate policy means better participation of stakeholders at local, regional, and global levels, including youth,” she said.

What does this mean for climate policy?

In short, being official stakeholders means young people get a bigger seat at the table. Campbell hopes that now, they will be able to shape policies that affect their future and work “with those who will not be here to see the impacts of decisions made today.”

The youth constituency should also see additional funding and support to take part in future COP conferences and other events about climate change, she adds.

Especially in recent years, young people have been some of the most vocal about strong climate targets and policies. Millions joined school strikes around the world, others took part in U.N. youth climate summits or made headway as activists, like 19-year old Greta Thunberg, or reached political leadership positions liked 28-year old Ricarda Lang, who is the co-leader of the German Green party.

This year’s COP27 also saw the first ever official youth representative, Omnia El Omrani, fight for the inclusion of young people’s voices, the launch of a climate youth negotiator program that aims to empower young climate activists from the global south, and the inaugural youth climate forum.

Campbell says the goal was for young people to be at the center of policy-making.

“When we talk about representation, we don’t just want it at international negotiations and we don’t want to only be consulted. We want it at all levels of government and we want to be partners because action happens on the ground,” she said.

Her and her colleagues also hope to change the way older generations see climate change and its urgency.

“We know that including more youth creates more ambitious and just outcomes, so hopefully we will be able to advance quicker action on the climate crisis through our genuine involvement,” Campbell concluded.

How did they make it happen?

Most people on YOUNGO’s team had never formally learned negotiation skills. This included Bettina Duerr, a policy officer at Federation Internationales Des Mouvements Catholiques d’Action Paroissial.

“I did not have specific training or support in this role, but I used experiences from other contexts. Plus, our working group was really supportive throughout,” she told CNBC’s Make It.

“It helped that I was already in touch with the working group before COP27 and that we planned our strategy,” she added.

As well as learning from each other, previous networking had put the group in contact with experienced negotiators who gave them advice, Campbell added.

But their overall strategy boiled down to just three points, she explained. Those included writing out agreements they hoped to reach, partnering with other constituencies and making sure they had other groups in their corner, backing their ideas.

Duerr and Campbell both described the negotiations as intense, draining and stressful — but their commitment to the cause outweighed this.

“We’d stop anything we were doing to join last minute meetings with each other and with parties that wanted to champion our perspective,” Campbell said.

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