Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and President-designate of the Conference of the Parties (COP28), has affirmed that COP28 is determined to ensure that youth voices and ambitions are a focal point of the climate process.
Al Jaber made this statement during the first 'Youth Stocktake' side event at the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB58), hosted by the COP28 Presidency today. The event focused on evaluating the opportunities and challenges regarding youth participation in climate negotiations and multilateral climate processes.
"Through this Youth Stocktake, we will identify the gaps for youth inclusion and build on efforts to enhance access, capacity and resources for young people,” he said.
Dr. Al Jaber added, “Within the COP28 team, nearly 70 percent of our negotiators are under the age of 35. The COP28 Presidency and the Youth Climate Champion are committed to supporting and enabling greater access for youth especially from underrepresented communities through key initiatives such as the International Youth Climate Delegates Programme.”
Youth Stocktake complements first Global Stocktake
At the event, the concept of a Youth Stocktake was introduced as a complementary initiative to the first Global Stocktake. It aims to assess the progress and gaps in youth inclusion within the UNFCCC negotiation process. The Youth Stocktake will be presented at COP28 alongside the first Global Stocktake, which critically reviews the advancements made towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This milestone is pivotal in addressing climate change as it provides an opportunity to deliver an ambitious response and make necessary adjustments.
Along with Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the SB58 side event was attended by Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC; Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Community Development and COP28 Youth Climate Champion; Razan Al Mubarak, COP28 High Level Champion; representatives from Parties, the United Nations and youth stakeholders.
Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said, "Meaningful youth engagement in the UNFCCC requires more than attending the conference. We need all voices to be heard. We must continue and enhance our support to young people so that you can meaningfully engage and influence the process, and influence the trajectory for global climate goals and commitments. I hope the Youth Stocktake will improve our understanding of where we are in ensuring youth participation in the process. Something we have all committed to."
Youth's pivotal role
Al Mazrui, COP28 Youth Climate Champion, said, “Equitable climate action calls for youth to be heard, given access and enabled to contribute to decision-making. As we approach COP28, our vision is clear: each subsequent COP must surpass its predecessor. The COP28 International Youth Climate Delegate Programme recognises that youth have a pivotal role to play in the success of COP28 and climate progress."
She added, “Youth hold the key to our shared future, their passion and innovation ignite change. We are committed to enhancing youth participation within the COP28 Presidency and the COP process, strengthening platforms that advance the youth climate agenda, formalising their involvement, relaying and amplifying their voices, and empowering them through capacity building."
Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High Level Champion for COP28, said, “Success is incumbent on authentic inclusivity. Everyone is needed if we are to succeed. We need to deliver for our youth and children by mobilising support for youth-led solutions and ensuring that the non-state actors and the private sector support capacity-building, skills development and green jobs opportunities.”
Milestones of youth inclusion
During the session, youth leaders highlighted notable milestones of youth inclusion including the establishment of YOUNGO; the annual Conference of Youth which precedes COP and local pre-COP youth conferences, which took place in 80 countries in 2022. Speakers at the event also discussed progress made on the Global Youth Statement, an annual comprehensive set of youth policy proposals agreed to by global youth organisations, paragraph 64 of the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact, and paragraph 55-57 of the COP27 Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan.
At the event, YOUNGO and youth leaders discussed persistent challenges faced by young people, including the lack of resources and funding for youth climate volunteers; gaps in education and capacity building to understand the complex negotiation topics, a lack of formalised processes for youth policy proposals to be considered by governments, and a disconnect between youth needs in formal negotiation spaces.
Young people called on the UNFCCC to reform international youth policy input processes and establish an accessible catalog of capacity-building content. Based on recommendations at the event, the incoming COP28 Presidency and the Youth Climate Champion agreed to deliver a roadmap and action plan on the road to COP28 to improve UNFCCC youth engagement structures.
COP28 International Youth Climate Delegate programme
The COP28 Presidency have also selected the first International Youth Climate Delegate Programme (International YCDP) cohort of 100 youth delegates, representing the world’s least-developed countries, small island developing states, Indigenous Peoples, and minority groups.
Seventy-four percent of the delegates represent least-developed countries and small-island developing states across Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and North Africa. The cohort of delegates include 12 from Indigenous communities and 10 from conflict areas. Fifty-six delegates are female, six are People of Determination, and 72 of the 100 delegates have never attended a COP.
The COP28 Youth Climate Champion team and YOUNGO oversee the International YCDP programme. Six youth delegates from the International YCDP and three from the UAE Youth Climate Delegate Programme participated in the SB58 as party observers.
The Programme was designed to provide a platform for the needs and policy proposals of youth in global climate decision-making, build climate capacity, knowledge, and networks among youth, and establish a model for equitable youth inclusion in all future COPs.
Leading up to COP28, youth delegates will be involved in capacity-building sessions, follow the UNFCCC negotiation process closely throughout the year, gather inputs from their home countries to build a youth-centred strategic plan for COP28, and participate in key climate events.