Youth Forum,
3rd Meeting (PM)

Youth Engagement, Indigenous Knowledge Vital to Reforming Climate Finance Systems, Speakers Stress, as Global Forum Continues

Reforming climate financial systems requires youth engagement, climate justice for vulnerable communities and recognition of Indigenous communities’ role in preserving biodiversity, young leaders told the Economic and Social Council’s annual Youth Forum today.  They also urged for the inclusion of youth in building resilient agrifood systems and backing youth-led hunger solutions.

The Youth Forum, which meets from 16 to 18 April, is focused on the theme “Youth shaping sustainable and innovative solutions:  Reinforcing the 2030 Agenda and eradicating poverty in times of crises”. (For background, see Press Release ECOSOC/7155.)

On the second day, in the afternoon, the Forum first held a panel discussion, titled “Financing our future:  road to a robust climate finance system for present and future generations”.  During the session the speakers reviewed the actions needed to address the climate crisis in a just way and discussed how to finance climate action, with a specific focus on the role of Indigenous communities.

Nnaemeka Phil Eke-okocha, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, stressed the significance of engaging young voices in climate finance discussions, pointing out the necessity of achieving “a systemic shift from the current growth-based economic models to a climate resilient world”.  This shift entails prioritizing collective well-being over individual gains and competitiveness guided by principles of care, justice and equity.  Calling for reforms, he put a spotlight on revolutionizing financial architecture, addressing the debt crisis, implementing fair taxation measures and reforming global trade systems.  Quoting United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the importance of keeping promises on international climate finance, he observed that $1.8 trillion are needed by 2030 for the poorest countries to transition their economies and adapt to climate change.  “Our response today will shape the world we will leave for tomorrow,” he concluded.

Olivia Karp, youth climate advocate, stressing that climate finance requires a participatory approach to climate action, detailed the work of youth groups, like YOUNGO, to elevate youth voices in climate finance discussions.  She urged youth to come together as “a collective” to invest in climate finance-related projects, such as scaling up renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  Turning to the role of climate finance in mitigating the impacts of climate disasters, she urged to include those who have experienced climate change-related disasters in decision-making processes.  “Educate yourselves on the impacts of climate change and disasters to prevent future crisis from happening,” she added.

Ayisha Siddiqa, member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, highlighted the lack of “a clear definition of climate finance” agreed upon by Member States, which hinders progress towards climate goals.  She suggested defining climate finance to include considerations of “climate justice” and “support for vulnerable communities”.  Also, raising concerns about an estimated $600 billion annually lost to tax evasion, she proposed redirecting this money towards financing a just green transition.  Additionally, as the Governments are preparing for the Summit of the Future, she recommended setting up “youth advisory groups that will be involved in the articulation of the declaration on rights of future generations”.

Onel Inanadinia Masardule Herrera, Indigenous climate activist, noted that 80 per cent of global biodiversity is protected by the Indigenous communities, which receive less than 1 per cent of climate finance assistance.  Calling for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ role as “guardians of Mother Earth”, he underscored the need for their consent to be obtained before implementing projects that could affect their land, territory or resources.

Carla Conceição da Graça Lima, analyst at the European Central Bank, highlighting the need for a mix of public and private financing in addressing climate-related issues, advocated for innovative financial instruments like green bonds to mobilize resources.  “Climate finance should be directed towards the vulnerable communities,” she emphasized, noting that countries that are disproportionately affected by the crisis have not been major contributors to its causes.

In the next panel discussion, titled “Feeding the future:  youth and sustainable food systems for all”, speakers showcased youth-led best practices and scalable solutions to hunger and discussed how young people can help better leverage the interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 (zero hunger) and other Goals to amplify the impact of interventions, also making recommendations to policymakers to systematically include youth in the building of more inclusive, sustainable and resilient agrifood systems.

Yazmeed Wardman, a master’s degree student and the representative of the Indigenous Youth Caucus, said that she grew up with a summer tradition of picking berries on her Indigenous community’s reserve in Canada.  In one summer, “our spot for berry picking was replaced with soccer fields,” she said.  “This was the end of our yearly tradition, and also an example of how Indigenous knowledge on food systems is getting lost.”  Traditional knowledge has been practiced and maintained for thousands of years, and it includes strategies on how to sustainably farm, hunt and fish.  Studies have also shown that Indigenous knowledge and consuming traditional foods have been linked with a decrease in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Deng Wenhao, Chief Executive Officer of Zhongke Dynamic, said that China’s Government has put forward vigorous national policies in climate change and food security and encouraged youth involvement through funding and other support.  A young research scientist and entrepreneur, he is exploring whether technological innovation can address the significant challenges posed by carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and can also improve saline alkaline soils. His business has successfully converted power-plant solid waste into absorbent materials that can effectively capture carbon dioxide.  After use, those materials can be buried in the salt-affected land to improve their physical and chemical properties, enabling vegetation to grow on previously barren lands.

Lana Weidgenant, UN Policy Manager at ProVeg International, said she was born in Brazil, where she understood from an early age how agriculture and the preservation of the Amazon rainforest are deeply interlinked. “We must respect the planetary boundaries because we know there will be no food systems resilience for food security in a future of climate disaster,” she said.  Youth are at the forefront of the fight against climate change and have championed the cause of sustainable food systems.  National youth-led organizations are demonstrating the power of agroecology in smallholder farming to mitigate climate change and ensure food security for future generations.  “But we cannot do this alone,” she said, urging Governments, businesses and civil society to join this crucial endeavour and invest in smallholder farming and plant-based ancestral diets.

Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Director of Government Relations at the National Young Farmers Coalition, said that 30 years ago, the United States Department of Agriculture did not have an exclusive programme to support beginning farmers and historically disadvantaged living farmers.  The United States farm bill of 2018 introduced a programme with mandatory annual baseline funding of $20 million to train the next generation of farmers.  Now the next generation of farmers need other investments like access to land, capital markets and funding to implement conservation practices to fight climate change. “We hope that domestic and international Government bodies continue investing in the next generation of farmers,” she urged.

Aisha Hamman, Chief Executive Officer of the Lift Africa Foundation, said that having grown up in northern Nigeria where traditional gender roles often confined the dreams of young women to being wives and mothers, she intimately understood the significance of pursuing one’s aspirations and became the first lawyer in her family.  “This is why I’m committed to paving the way for women and youth in my community to access similar opportunities.”  The inception of her foundation was a response to crises such as job scarcity, farmer-herder conflict and widespread insecurity, all of which hinder agricultural productivity and jeopardize food security. The organization addresses interconnected challenges like poverty, illiteracy and early marriages prevalent in rural communities, particularly among young people.  By economically empowering women through training and market access, “we dismantle barriers that perpetuate cycles of poverty and inequality”, she emphasized.

For information media. Not an official record.