What comes to mind when you hear the words “climate change”? Uncertain weather patterns, torrential rains, storms and dry spells? Chronic food shortage and a rise in temperatures that might cause serious health problems?
The coming together of more than 20000 people from across the globe to Durban for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17), or UN Conference on Climate Change, testifies to the seriousness of the issue. Youth, on the other hand, are seeing a world full of opportunities.
South African Council of Churches Youth Forum’s (SACCYF) Bongani Luvalo says most mitigation and adaptation processes to climate change mean creation of the much-needed jobs for the youths through green economy activities.
“Climate change is real and we [youths] are urging everyone to act now by adopting human activities that can help mitigate it. And a green economic strategy is one way every country must go,” he said. “For the youth, full participation in the green economy would not only mean contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation processes but also engaging in activities that will boost their our economic lives.”
Speaking in the side lines of the Youth Forum on Climate Change at COP 17 in Durban, Michael Sheng, also a South African, noted: “Youths must fully participate in climate change matters because the yet-to-come climate change calamities will hit-hard on them. The green economy is the way to go so that we serve the planet from disasters. On a positive note, adopting green economic policies would not only mean mitigating climate change but also creating more jobs for the unemployed youths.”
He cited the example that if all government hospitals in South Africa go for solar power as a source of energy, there would be more demand for suppliers, installers and maintainers. All these, he said, would require human power to drive the processes thereby creating more jobs.
At the African Youth Climate Change Summit, Tamari Mavasa of South African Youth National Development (SAYND) challenged the youths to come-up with “green” innovative ideas. “With green economy coming-our away, the world needs innovative young people who can practice smart agriculture, generate energy that does not interfere with the environment and come up with other numerous innovative ways that are environmentally friendly,” she said.
Matshepo Mafokeng of Soweto Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) said that there is a need to communicate climate change to the youth, particularly young women, because “Many youths feel that climate change is too scientific and that it is a political issue that ought to be discussed by policy makers. I used to be ignorant but through my participation in various climate change campaigns, I have learnt that youths will bear the brunt of climate change if they do not act now.”
Climate change, he added, threatens the safety of many girls in post disaster situations such as floods and storms that are often accompanied by sexual harassment and abuse. It is thus important to equip them with knowledge on climate change so that they can also play their role in mitigating its effects.
After the conference, SACCYF plan to embark on an intensive campaign aimed at informing and educating the youth about the opportunities created by the green economy. It is an activity that is at the youth’s disposal. The youth grouping forms part of an international climate change campaign known as the “We have faith, act now for climate change justice” campaign.
(Daud Kayisi is the Gender and Media Diversity Centre Programme Officer at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference)