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Commonwealth youth leaders want action, not just rhetoric at COP28

Youth leaders representing the Commonwealth’s 56 countries have urged leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai to move beyond speeches and deliver concrete action to safeguard the planet. 

Their call is at the heart of a new report launched on 8 December 2023 during an intergenerational dialogue organised by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN) and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The report outlines the climate concerns of young people in the Commonwealth and proposes specific actions for governments to engage them in decision-making, underlining that the “hope of tackling climate change lies with youth”.

During the dialogue, youth leaders expressed disappointment at the lack of action taken by countries in response to a wealth of recommendations they had presented at COP26 in Glasgow. 

As countries negotiate the outcomes of COP28, they called on governments to focus on creating conditions that allow young people to share their experiences on climate risks, showcase their work and influence policymaking.

Opening the dialogue, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, described young people, who make up 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s population, as “humanity’s greatest asset”. 

She said: 

“Young people are among those facing the harshest consequences of the climate crisis. Despite this, they embody the spirit of hope, using their ingenuity and passion to deliver tangible climate solutions. 

“It is our duty to engage and listen to young people on policies and practices shaping climate mitigation and adaptation efforts across all levels.”

The Secretary-General added: “The report’s recommendations offer countries a blueprint to engage young people as strategic partners in climate action for their future – a future that relies on the health of our planet.”

Chevaughn Brown, Membership lead of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network, said the report gave young people a voice in shaping their future.

He added: “A common future can be achieved if we treat the future as the present. With decisive planning and making the right choices, climate change can be just stories of what could have been a distant past.”

The dialogue was designed to provide young people with a platform to engage with leaders, including the Commonwealth Secretary-General, on climate risks and support structures for youth-led climate action, innovation, and ocean conservation.

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