I had the honor to represent Kazakhstan at the 17th UN Youth Conference on Climate Change (COY17), held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where young people from all over the world came together with one goal – to make the planet a better place for all of us.
Young changemakers from 140 countries gathered to exchange ideas and share experiences on how they are working on this issue in their countries and communities to save the Earth on Nov. 2-4.
Young people are the future agents of change. Therefore, the COY17 conference reinforced the capacity building of young people. They learned about green economy and waste management, water scarcity, global food security, and renewable energy. They also learned from representatives of international organizations how to engage young people in climate action.
In addition, the conference allowed participants to enter a multinational environment through intercultural exchange, thus creating an open space for expressing ideas and discussing culture. We have seen that the world gets smaller and cozier when we peacefully gather and discuss what is essential for young people who demand action, not promises or words.
The biggest impression of the conference was getting to know like-minded people worldwide and realizing that you are not alone on the way to solving global problems. People exchanged ideas and discussed possible ways to collaborate for a sustainable future. It is aspiring to learn more about different student and youth organizations for climate action in other countries. Some have built an educational platform, and others engaged young people through social media.
As a content creator and digital community builder, I strive to raise awareness among young people from Central Asia by introducing them to important topics, public lectures, and materials. I am inspired to act, teach others and engage youth in building a better future for each other.
Why should Kazakh youth engage in climate action?
Young people have endless potential to create innovative solutions that may not be a priority for their authorities. Therefore, young people are the primary agents of change in building a sustainable future, as they will be the ones who will make the companies of the future and hold positions of responsibility.
Building a sustainable future must start with education and awareness of the challenges facing our region and the world. But, first, we must work to educate conscious youth and give young people the correct values. Ecology lessons should be introduced into the school curriculum, or at least special sessions should be provided to all students of schools and universities.
As an academic nomad who has lived in several Western countries, including Glasgow, Scotland, where COP26 took place last year, and the Scandinavian countries, I have come to believe that teaching habits contribute to people’s daily activities and their relation to our planet. But this is not necessarily limited to the actions of individuals but also to the political will of the government to address the problem and work towards sustainability. So young people should also reach out to local authorities to make their voices heard and call for real action.
To meet their needs, we need more representatives of women and rural areas, those most affected by climate problems. We must recognize that climate change will affect the lives of every person, and it may be too late if we do not give it due importance.
Alone we can bring a difference, but only together we can change the world.
The text of the youth statement can be found here.
The author is Ayaulym Sarybayeva, a 23-year-old student of the South European Studies Erasmus Mundus International Joint Master’s Programme in the U.K., Spain, and France. Her main study area is Politics and Society in Southern Europe, the Arab World, and the Mediterranean.