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Now is the time to include youth of Pakistan in climate action

On International Youth Day, 12th August 2022, the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) with support of the German Development Cooperation hosted the Youth for Climate Action seminar at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Over 65 students and activists from Mardan, Peshawar and the twin cities were in attendance along with policymakers and dignitaries, who motivated the youth to engage in climate action in Pakistan.

Keeping in view the Pakistan Vision 2025 the seminar aimed to integrate intergenerational voices in climate action. It was hosted and moderated by Ameera Adil, a climate change communicator and founder of clim-8.org.

During the opening remarks, Dr Mohammad Abid, Senior Advisor Adaptation to Climate Change at GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), emphasized youths’ critical role in successful climate action and invited their support to act as role models to secure their future. “We all know that addressing climate change is not a topic of discussion for policymakers only. The time is now for everyone to become part of this global movement to save our precious planet,” he stated.

Kamran Naeem, of ‘WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) Enabling Environment & Climate,’ UNICEF (United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund) introduced the concept of ‘COP in my City’ events which are planned of COP 27 in major cities of Pakistan.

The issue of climate change and its impact on youth is of utmost importance as almost 27% of Pakistan’s population is between 15 to 29 years and the number of youths in Pakistan is expected to peak by 2050. Youth remains the biggest stakeholder in climate action due to the intergenerational nature of climate challenges and, hence as such deserves to be at the forefront of all planned policies and action.

To this end, participants were divided into three to four groups to develop a policy brief/ youth statement on various issues like flooding, migration, drought, locust attack, GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding), sea level rise and heatwaves.

Each group acted as a parliament, complete with ministers, presidents and prime ministers and envisioned a climate resilient path/adaptation, developed youth led Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) implementation project ideas, and a roadmap to establish cooperation mechanisms between youth leaders and policymakers. They discussed their policies and cross-questioned each other. Resulting in a dynamic, fruitful, and learning experience for all.

During her speech, Antonia Peters, First Secretary Development Cooperation – Embassy of Germany, Pakistan, stated, “All over the planet, young people are leading the charge for action to combat climate change. Fighting for their future. Fighting for our futures. And together, your hard work and perseverance will help to move this issue right up the political agenda. We recognize I recognize, your passion, your influence, and what is at stake for your generation. And it has been so important to have the voices of young people at the heart of our discussions.”

The seminar also had a penal discussion between Herman Nasir (SDG Coordinator – UN (United Nations) SDG Student Program), Haniya Imran (Founder – Youth Climate Activist Pakistan) and Reem Sharif (Transgender rights activist). The panel expressed how society at large is being affected by climate change and change needs to happen now.

“Climate change is a human rights issue, and we need to change now as we do not have time. The government needs to trust the youth. We are not made part of the policies and are not the key driving forces for the implementation of policies,” said Herman Nasir adding that the youth is not given enough knowledge to become part of the change.

“As humans, we tend to ignore issues unless they come knocking at our doors. Climate change is here now. And if we talk about the vulnerable communities, especially the Trans, it is exceedingly difficult for them to cope with regular issues let alone climate change and climate change will affect them the worst,” stated Reem Sharif.

Hania Imran was glad that the youth is finally being part of climate change conversations and stated, “In Pakistan, we are still trying to understand what the problem is and there isn’t much expertise on the issue,” highlighting that more work needs to be conducted at this front.

The event ended with a note by Tobias Becker, Country Director – GIZ Pakistan, “Youth has provided a paradigm shift to the overall climate discussions and remind us of the urgency we face and what we are all working towards – a climate-just and sustainable future,” he stated adding that, “To the youth here today, we need your support through your climate action, in the development of partnerships across the country, and your engagement on a policy level. While the previous generation has no doubt left you with a challenging legacy related to climate change, I am confident that together with your leadership potential, we will build a sustainable, resilient, and just future. A future that is prosperous for all. I thank you again for your participation today and I look forward to working with you towards building that future.”

The event mobilized and facilitated action by enabling a climate adaptation/mitigation roadmap and providing a dedicated platform for young advocates to offer inspiring and original insights on issues that matter to them.

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