Youth Hold Officials Accountable to Deliver Positive Climate Outcomes at Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting

On the concluding second day of the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, the precursor to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019, chairs of roundtables discussed the key takeaways of their respective sessions with an audience made up entirely of youth.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, moderated the highly interactive session.

Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who chaired the roundtable on enhancements to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), said: Yesterday, we reviewed the experiences of countries on the NDCs and a key takeaway from the session is that in preparing for the next set of NDCs, we must learn that these contributions can be generated in many different ways. It is not just government departments working together, but is also a dialogue between industries, local communities, NGOs and how everyone can become a driver in shaping NDCs.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who chaired the roundtable on raising ambition, said: We emphasized the urgency to act and the need to raise ambitions, as we are still far from where we need to be to achieve our targets. The huge participation of ministers at the session is evidence that political leaders around the world are becoming more conscious of the climate emergency.

Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, who chaired the roundtable on energy transition, said: What we saw in the discussions is extraordinary excitement about the opportunity and potential of renewable energy and how critical it was to ensure that everybody has access to them, including small island developing states, and least developed countries. We also saw a lot of focus on cleaning up the overall energy system because it’s going to be with us for a long time. This means that we have to capture the emissions that come from fossil fuels when we burn them to produce energy. So we can dig fuels out of the earth, and we can use them, but we can’t increase emissions from such processes.

Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Coordinator of Health and Climate Change at the World Health Organization, who participated in the meeting of health and climate ministers, said: Air pollution resulting from fossil fuel burning leads to seven million deaths every year. That rate of mortality is roughly equivalent to killing everybody in Switzerland annually. If we considered it an infectious disease, we would have ensured it became a public health emergency years ago. So the links are absolutely fundamental. The largest single health research funder in the world spends 99.96 percent of its resources on things other than climate change and 0.04 percent on climate change and health, even though there is a general consensus that climate change is one of the greatest health threats of the century.

After the chairs’ comments, the floor opened to questions and young members of the audience carried out a lively Q and A with the speakers and provided their feedback.

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, attended the session and shared their insights on the importance of engaging the youth in climate action.

His Excellency Dr Al Zeyoudi said: We want to send a message to youth around the world: We want you to have a voice, we want you to be engaged. We will take your comments and feedback into consideration in policy development and while formulating initiatives and actions. We want you to have an active participation and to attend global negotiations on climate change. With your skills and talent, you can go a long way.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed concluded the session and told the audience: You are doing what the global public should have done 20 years ago: holding leaders to account and demanding urgent, ambitious action to protect our planet. We need the world’s young to step up and speak. We are completely committed to youth engagement. You are inspiring us.

Source: Ministry of Climate Change and Environmen