When you walk into COP, especially as a beginner in the climate field, the words thrown at you can be quite intimidating: NDCs, V20, MRV, MDB, and so on. But as a youth, you are new and you have many new questions/ curiosities and though we are very much represented by the YOUNGO and many youth organizations, it always feels difficult to get across many relevant questions to the experts in the field. Fortunately, I have been able to be a part of one of such organizations – YES-DC as the observer delegate at COP24 and one of their events actually discussed this gap. They showed that how they were able to advise the government as a youth climate initiative or Kek (Klimatat-enEnergie Koepel) by appointing representatives to the government in different industries.
Starting from the field of agriculture, the major suggestions by the youth involved focusing on the diet of the people which is still meat and dairy intensive. The electricity sector needs a lot of reforms which were suggested by the youth and they were quite ambitious like making PV mandatory on every rooftop, retrofitting existing gas network for hydrogen. But also there were some more suggestions which can be attained more gradually e.g. decentralization of the grid, intraday batteries/ heat buffers solutions for storage. Some suggestions which are quite important in the field, especially for engagement of the youths were related to more stable contracts and paid internships which would help to keep the youth more engaged in the climate sector industry.
As the Euro/ton CO2 paid by the Netherlands is still very low as compared to the neighboring countries, a range of price was suggested by the youth initiatives for different industries, and a stress was given on the local carbon markets. The mobility industry is still crucial for carbon cuts even if the Netherlands has quite sustainable mobility modes like bicycles, as most of the people in the country still prefer aviation for many travels. But this also demands an action at the global level. The policies suggested by the youth here were on the price by usage for the mobility, and inclusion of green fiscal policy by having a gradual increase in the price for the gas.
The interesting part of the youth discussions is that they have immense pressure on interaction – you like it or not. So though the start of discussion was with the music we loved as teenagers, it became quite serious as everyone agreed that we are definitely not meeting the 1.5-degree challenge – with major frustrations due to rise in populism and lack of political will around the globe. The policies which the youth gave for their own countries from Italy, China, India, Spain, and Brussels included more incentives for bikes e.g. promoting bike lanes, increase in the EV public transport, CCS technologies (with some discussions on why it is still risky for some countries), and a flexible energy management planning.
The sessions on intergenerational inquiry emphasized the actions from all generations, especially as actions (and not just hope) from the youth, and the communication for solidarity between the generations. “We need to keep demanding as the youth to be a part of the conferences, parties – because it is not enough for us to make good consumer choices, but industries do not change.”
Though there are immense challenges which the youth see in achieving our individual NDCs, let alone the 1.5-degree challenge, there is still optimism to give our best. That quite sums up the youth day at COP24. We might be the lovers of social media and seem to be too dreamy, but we are the most aware and active generation to work on climate change – every single day.