Youths must participate in climate change issues

Source: Youths must participate in climate change issues | The Herald

Youths must participate in climate change issues
While the previous Zimbabwe’s NDCs were focusing mainly on the energy sector, the current and revised NDCs present an ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Achieford Mhondera
One of the key climate governance processes in Zimbabwe is the adoption and implementation of the revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The process involves an update of the NDCs submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as part of the obligations and commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

While the previous Zimbabwe’s NDCs were focusing mainly on the energy sector, the current and revised NDCs present a more ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The sectors to be covered in the revised NDCs are:  energy, agriculture, forestry and other land use, industrial processes and product use and waste sectors, thus presenting an economic-wide ambition.

This is hoped to feed into the country’s Low Emission Development Strategy (2020-2050) and other sector-specific policies on climate change.

The NDC revision process was done because the accumulated NDC targets of all countries which are part of the Paris Agreement were not pointing to the global ambition of keeping temperature increase to below 1.5C.

In Zimbabwe, the NDC revision process was done in the spirit of inclusivity, various actors were involved.

The same actors are also key in the implementation matrix of these revised NDCs.

These include government agencies, finance institutions, state owned enterprises, businesses and companies, individuals and households as well as the youth in particular.

However, of particular interest is the involvement of the youth in the process.

Is there any legal basis or moral obligation as well as other social or technological reasons to justify the inclusion of youth in such processes?

This is a question which most of the youth themselves do not answer convincingly.

The most immediate answer to the question on youth participation would be that youth are the future leaders and the impacts of climate change cut across all ages with youth included.

Another reason would be the youth, especially in Zimbabwe, constitute 60 percent of the total population which means their actions will add a quantitative value of climate ambition.

Some will provide some answers which point to opportunities to access climate funds as well as the energy and enthusiasm that the youth have compared to older generation.

However, there are more reasons to justify youth participation in climate governance processes.

Firstly, it is a legal right for youth to participate as it is enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Section 20 which calls for the State and all government agencies and institutions to ensure that youths have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in all spheres of life.

This must be read together with Section 73 which gives every person the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

Youth participation is also provided for in the African Union Agenda 2063 as well as African Youth Charter.

Article 19 (2) of the African Youth Charter states that States should recognise the vested interest of young people in protecting the natural environment as the inheritors of the environment.

At global level, the third priority of the United Nations Youth Strategy also calls for member states to enhance the capacity of the green economy to create more and better employment opportunities for young people, in wages and self-employment.

In addition, the Convention on the Rights of the child also states that every child has the right to participate in decision making processes that impact them.

All these instruments provide the legal basis for the participation of youth.

Apart from the legal basis, there is also a moral obligation for the youth to participate in climate governance processes.

This can be found on the principle of doing good which can be drawn from the Biblical text, Isaiah Chapter 1 verse 17 which calls people including the youth to learn to do good.

The complex nature of the climate problem coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic also requires the inclusion of the youth in all decisions meant to tackle it.

Youth are better placed to develop more innovative technologies needed for both mitigation and adaptation as they are currently being faced with the imperatives of both Education 5.0 and the new primary and secondary curriculum framework.

In addition, most of the youth constitute a greater percentage of social media users which is an effective arena for mobilisation particularly when other strategies are constrained due to Covid-19.

Lastly, youth have more to lose from climate change and this makes them highly motivated to tackle climate change in a way envisaged in the revised NDCs.

They can find innovative ways of viewing and tackling issues as older generations are often stuck in their ways and cannot see the bigger picture.


◆ Achieford Mhondera is a PhD student at the University of Zimbabwe doing research on the nexus between communication and climate change governance and biodiversity protection.