The COP27 assembled more than 46,000 delegations from nearly 200 countries in Egypt for two weeks to drive forward sustainable actions to fight climate change.
A major highlight of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) was to ensure that the voices of young and future generations were considered in climate and environmental conversations. The Children and Youth Pavilion ensured that young people at the summit deepened the conversation by lending their voices to issues around the climate change crisis ravaging communities globally.
Two days after the 2022 conference was declared open, the first-ever "Children and Youth Pavilion" in the history of COPs commenced at COP27 Blue Zone axis of the conference. This offered vibrant climate youth advocates in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh the opportunity to express their concerns about climate change negotiations.
The UN said the aim of creating a youth-driven pavilion was to contribute to further visibility, engagement, and empowerment of children and youth networks' voices and foster their inclusion in the global climate conversation and policy making.
"I depend on your voice. It is your future that we are supposed to be here to guarantee. And it is only through your voices, your advocacy and your inspiration that you will be able to enjoy your right to take full advantage of the earth, the forests and the air and to live a long and prosperous future on our beautiful planet once governments undertake their responsibilities. You are the future and it is your voice that will help deliver it," says COP27 President, Sameh Shoukry, during a visit to the youth pavilion.
Throughout the two weeks of the summit, PREMIUM TIMES observed that the pavilion was duly managed by children and youth from across continents at COP27. Excitement, cheers and important conversations about climate justice and youth inclusion in climate negotiations dominated the conversations.
On many occasions, dozens of COP attendees and passersby were attracted by the thrills echoing from the Youths pavilion stands. Sometimes, many stopped to have a feel of the creative exhibitions being displayed by the youths within the pavilion premises and to listen to prominent guests being hosted.
These activities attracted the attention of who deployed their mobile phones to capture the unique moments at the youth's pavilion.
This year, COP27 assembled more than 46,000 delegations from nearly 200 countries in Egypt for two weeks to drive forward sustainable actions to fight climate change as the world continues to battle with the existential scourge of weather fluctuations driven largely by human activities.
Unlike previous COPs, this year's conference was extended after the negotiations stalled over the terms calling for wealthy polluters( developed countries) to provide "loss and damage" funding -- a major agenda put forward by the African Group of Negotiators, for countries ruined by climate disasters, as well as over-ratcheting up ambition in tackling global warming.
Likewise, the European Union roundly rejected a document shown by Egypt overnight because of concerns it was weak on curbing emissions. But after several hours of negotiations, a historic Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan (SHIP), which established funding for loss and damage, was reached on November 19.
The new fund will see donors contribute to a global fund to save lives and livelihoods from climate change-related disasters, the organisers said.
The UN said COP27 saw significant progress on adaptation, with governments agreeing on the way to move forward on the Global Goal Adaptation, which will conclude at COP28 and inform the first Global Stock take, improving resilience amongst the most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, new pledges, totaling more than $230 million, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP27.
These pledges, the organisers said, will help many more vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions.
How youths shaped COP27 negotiations
On several occasions all through thematic days at the summit, young people stormed the streets and premises of the summit calling for climate justice, raging against superficial commitments and rallying against political inaction.
Likewise, many young negotiators from Africa were also pushing to have a seat at the negotiation table for their concerns and aspirations to be heard and attended to.
The UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, also recognised the vibrant presence and participation of youths at COP27 while delivering his closing remarks at the summit.
"Climate advocates - led by the moral voice of young people -- have kept the agenda moving through the darkest of days. They must be protected.To all of them, I say we share your frustration. But we need you now more than ever," Mr Stiell said.
Unlike the stories from the Sinai peninsula, the UN official said the world cannot wait for a miracle from a mountaintop.
"It will take each and every one of us fighting in the trenches each and every day," he said.
African youths at COP27 share their experiences and concerns
Over the two weeks of intensive engagement among negotiators, issues around food security, innovative finance, just transition, investing in the future of energy (green hydrogen, climate change and the sustainability of vulnerable communities) and water security took the centre stage at the six roundtables featured at the high-level events of the summit.
But climate justice, effective implementation of lingering pledges, and more youth participation in climate change negotiations are the major concerns for many African youths at COP this year.
"They cannot be deciding for us, we want to go into negotiations, we want to make the decisions, we want to be involved in policy-making and implementation and we want to be collaborators and co-designers of solutions to the effects of climate change that are facing us," Rose Kobusinge, 26, a Uganda-based climate justice advocate told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
While the negotiations at COP27 were still on, Ms Kobusinge lamented that she felt a tad discouraged because pledges made at last year's COP were largely unfulfilled.
Despite having a first-ever youth pavilion at COP27, she said there is still not much freedom for youths to demonstrate as they so wish.
On his part, Lucky Abeng, a research officer for Climate and Sustainable Development Network, said the climate negotiation space is not as open to young people as they would have expected at COP27.
The climate justice advocate says he came to COP alongside other youths to demand finance for loss and damage, adaptation financing for Africa, climate financing and also the consideration of Africa as a country of special needs.Also, the co-founder of International Climate Change Development Initiative, Olumide Idowu, who is also one of Nigeria's youth negotiators at COP this year, expressed reservations. He said himself and other youths across the world called for more youth inclusion in the climate discussion and how their government delegations would be speaking on the loss and damage, adaptation and climate finance.
That, he said, has been the biggest conversation that shaped this year's summit.
"I am not impressed with youth participation in Nigeria," Mr Idowu told PREMIUM TIMES.
"We still need a lot of work to do so that we can showcase more climate-driven local action that Nigeria is doing."
He urged the government to look into youth participation and that it should be one of the key elements to be considered during pre-Cop arrangements. This, Mr Idowu said, would enhance full participation in activities in the Nigerian pavilion at Cop."Doing such will help young people to have a collaborative experience in making their implementation back home to be more global," he said.
Another youth negotiator for Nigeria, Lauritta Boniface, Co-founder of Ecocycle Limited, shared her experience in the negotiations room and plenary as well.Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
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She said she saw other youths like herself in the negotiation room at this year's cop tendering their country's position and trying to influence leaders to agree on a human-centred decision where no one would be left behind.
"I believe that this is the last generation to fight for climate change in the world," she added.
More African youths speak
Like several other African youths, Patricia Kombo, a Kenyan-based environmentalist, expressed mixed feelings about the COP27 processes.
At first as a young Kenyan, she said she is happy with the creation of a youth pavilion at the summit this year because they now have a space where they can share their "experiences" and a safe space where they (youth) don't feel intimidated.
However, she said she is heartbroken because leaders come to COP to dish out sweet statements but when the conference is over, nothing is often done to fulfill commitments.
"So do I feel it is not worth promising? And I think I am losing hope in the whole process," Ms Kombo said.
Similarly, Coordinator of the Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27, Saad Uakkas (Morocco), said young people at this year's COP are more powerful than in the previous.
He said they have more young people in the negotiations room working with different organisations that are amplifying the voices of young people.
"We now have more countries in the negotiation room including young people as negotiators, and that's what we are pushing for," he said.He said as young people at COP they are demanding more finance and mechanisms for loss and damages.
"Our countries are suffering. People at the local level are struggling, so we need climate finance. We need adaptation to be considered so that we can help our brothers and sisters in the local communities and at the indigenous level to cope with the impacts and consequences of climate change," Mr Uakkas said.