Strengthening youth engagement in climate change and disaster risk management

Many environmental and human systems are at risk due to the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and these dangers are becoming more evident in our daily lives, including via an increasing number of calamities that already exhibit signs of climate change. Climate risk is currently posing and will continue to pose a serious threat to the existence and wellbeing of the planet, leading to mounting concerns about how these threats may affect our planet’s future – especially its ecosystems, community well-being, and future advancements.

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines ‘risk’ as ‘the potential for adverse consequences for human or ecological systems, recognising the diversity of values and objectives associated with such systems’. These risks could be a result of global climate change or human responses to climate change and they potentially affect lives, livelihoods, health and wellbeing, assets and properties, and ecosystems.

The decision-making tools available to manage climate risks are substantially and inextricably linked to addressing the impacts and risks related to observed and predicted climate change scenarios. The primary factor in climate risk management is centralising the linkage between climate risk decision-making and the preparation of adaptation plans. Based on real or perceived hazards, climate risk decision-making should concentrate on the procedures required to identify and characterise the risks as well as to formulate relevant plans and policies to limit the possibility and/or scale of negative potential effects.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, together with the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement and the UN Sendai Framework Disaster Risk Reduction, are particularly focused on pushing and accelerating climate risk management and adaptation forward on multiple levels and varying scales.

Climate change and disaster risk management: The big picture

The science of climate change and its impacts on humanity and the natural environment are well explained. Globally, people are experiencing climate-related events in their daily lives. As the atmosphere warms due to the GHGs emitted by anthropogenic activities at a substantial and increasing rate, the Earth is facing drastic changes in the global water cycle, reduction in precipitation (snow, rain, and hail), rising global mean sea level, and some climate extremities. Besides these, indirect cascading impacts can also be significant.

Climate change increases catastrophic risk in a multitude of ways, as confirmed by the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (2022). It alters exposure patterns as climatic conditions change and hazards appear in new locations, increasing the likelihood, frequency, and intensity of climatic hazard events and influencing sensitivity to all hazards as a result of long-term socioeconomic pressures and repercussions like displacement. Simply put, it risks undermining the social, environmental, and economic foundations of sustainable development.

Youth engagement: From vulnerability to solution

The youth are on the frontline in facing the impact of climate change. Climate-induced disasters are a key reason for human migration, poverty, food shortages, economic dislocation, and intergroup conflicts. Young people can particularly be more vulnerable to physical and psychosocial effects that could harm their health and wellbeing. Exemplifying such impacts, climate disasters jeopardise youth education, which can ultimately lead to trauma, depression, and other psychological issues.

The youth are the future and it is vital to seek measures to develop, train, and capacitate the future generation. Today, young people from all across the world are speaking up and demanding that climate change receive the necessary attention. They have the potential to play a pivotal role in transforming our planet to ensure a climate-resilient future. While they are considered a ‘highly-vulnerable group’ facing calamities during extreme climate events, they also are champions who present enormous potential to change how we tackle climate change and its impacts.

Reports confirm that younger people experience more than 80 percent of the consequences that are attributable to climate change risk. Therefore, it is important that they are given a chance to shape their future. Building resilience, positive development, and adaptive capacities for the youth are crucial. Avenues should be opened for them to raise their voices and show their strengths and capacities to fight climate risk.

It is important to support and empower youth to address climate change and disaster risk management. They should be given the freedom to express themselves to governments, society, or other stakeholders, which could in turn develop powerful decision-making and meaningful solutions. This is possible through multi-stakeholder engagement and collaborative action, including climate advocates, government officials, politicians, educators, community members, and other key stakeholders to create an adaptive and resilient generation.

Youth Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Management

SLYCAN Trust is focused on establishing a youth partnership across a multitude of youth and youth-led organisations to create awareness and build capacities to act for climate change disaster risk management, mitigation, and adaptation.

Risk-reduction initiatives at global, national, and regional levels frequently seem too little and too late in the face of climate change impacts. With this partnership, SLYCAN Trust aims to strengthen individual, institutional, and adaptive capacities to positively impact the youth, local communities, and other interested parties in building resilience and risk management, while ensuring sustainability. This will promote collective action, multi-stakeholder partnership, and responsible decision-making at multiple levels to effectively eradicate the disaster risk of climate change.

References

1. Asian Development Bank (2015). Global Increase in Climate-Related Disasters. Philippines.

2. Ann V. Sanson, Judith Van Hoorn, Susie E. L. Burke (2019). Responding to the Impacts of the Climate Crisis on Children and Youth. Child Development Perspectives.

3. Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)/Centre for Environment Education (CEE)/Kai Analytics/Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) (2021). Young People and Drivers and Barriers to Climate Adaptation Action. Rotterdam/Ahmedabad/Vancouver/Copenhagen

4. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2022). Sixth Assessment Report: Summary for Policymakers. Geneva.

5. Katharine Lee, Nathalia Gjersoe, Saffron ONeill, Julie Barnett (2020). Youth Perceptions of Climate Change: A Narrative Synthesis. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

6. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (2022). Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022: Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future. Geneva.

7. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (2020). Guardians of the Planet: Asia Pacific Children and Youth Voices on Climate Crisis and Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva.

8. United Nations People Fund (2010). At the Frontier: Young People and Climate Change. New York.

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