Young people have long been at the forefront of climate change discussions and activism.
This year’s COP27 was another milestone for them: they became official climate policy actors under the ACE Action Plan, which was created at COP27 in Egypt in recent weeks.
The voices and opinions of young people will now have a much greater impact when it comes to designing and implementing climate policies, explains Hailey Campbell, one of the negotiators who made it possible.
“Official recognition as a stakeholder in the ACE Action Plan gives young people the international support we need to apply for our formal inclusion in climate decision-making and implementation,” he told CNBC’s Make It.
Campbell is also the ACE point of contact for YOUNGO, the youth constituency for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the co-executive director of the US-based organization Care About Climate.
What is the ACE action plan?
ACE stands for Action for Climate Empowerment and is outlined in Article 12 of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Improving education and awareness about climate change by making research easily accessible is one of its goals. Another aim of the article, and the new plan developed at COP27 to support it, is to ensure that governments and organizations around the world work together on policies and take into account the views of the public and stakeholder groups when making decisions.
Srishti Singh of the Indian Youth Climate Network, who worked alongside Campbell at COP27, told CNBC’s Make It that the new ACE plan is key when it comes to considering different groups in climate policy.
“Strengthening ACE in climate policy means better participation of local, regional and global stakeholders, including youth,” he said.
What does this mean for climate policy?
In short, being an official stakeholder means that young people get a bigger seat at the table. Campbell hopes they will now be able to shape policies that affect their future and work “with those who won’t be here to see the impacts of decisions made today.”
The youth constituency should also see additional funding and support to attend future COP conferences and other climate change events, he adds.
Especially in recent years, young people have been among the most vocal about strong climate goals and policies. Millions of people joined school strikes around the world, others took part in UN youth climate summits or made headway as activists, like 19-year-old Greta Thunberg, or rose to political leadership positions like 28-year-old Ricarda Lang, who is the co-leader of the German Green party.
This year’s COP27 also saw the first official youth representative, Omnia El Omrani, campaign for the inclusion of youth voices, the launch of a youth negotiator program on climate which aims to empower young activists to the climate of the global south and the inauguration of the Forum climate youth programme.
Campbell says the goal was for young people to be at the center of decision-making.
“When we talk about representation, we don’t just want it at international negotiations and we don’t just want to be consulted. We want it at all levels of government and we want to be partners in getting action on the ground,” she said.
She and her colleagues also hope to change how older generations view climate change and its urgency.
“We know that including more young people creates more ambitious and just outcomes, so we hope to be able to drive faster action on the climate crisis through our genuine involvement,” concluded Campbell.
How did they make it happen?
Most of the people on the YOUNGO team had never formally learned negotiation skills. This included Bettina Duerr, policy officer at the Federation Internationales Des Mouvements Catholiques d’Action Paroissial.
“I didn’t have specific training or support in this role, but I used experiences from other backgrounds. Also, our team was really supportive throughout,” he told CNBC’s Make It.
“It helped that I was already in touch with the working group before COP27 and planned our strategy,” he added.
In addition to learning from each other, previous networking had put the group in touch with experienced negotiators who gave them advice, Campbell added.
But their overall strategy came down to just three points, he explained. These included writing deals they hoped to achieve, partnering with other constituencies, and making sure they had other groups in their corner, backing their ideas.
Duerr and Campbell both described the negotiations as intense, exhausting and stressful, but their commitment to the cause surpassed that.
“We would stop whatever we were doing to have last minute meetings with each other and with parties who wanted to defend our perspective,” Campbell said.