Climate change actors fly to Milan for youth summit

A group of young people, including two students from the University of Cape Town (UCT), travel to Milan to make waves and spark relevant conversation at a youth summit as world leaders prepare for the Conference of United Nations on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow later this year.

Each delegate is already an activist or an emerging activist in the fields of climate change and the environment. Masters candidate Koaile Monaheng and BSc student Sibusiso Mazomba, both from UCT, as well as Sandisile Mkhonza from the University of Witwatersand, are on their way to Milan in northern Italy for the event Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition, which runs September 28-30. 2021.

Billed as “an unprecedented opportunity to present concrete ideas and proposals on some of the most pressing issues on the climate agenda”, the event will allow the trio to interact with ministers from around the world on climate issues. As the curtain rises, Youth4Climate takes place in parallel with the Pre-COP in Milan, the preparatory meeting for this year’s COP26 in Scotland in November.

Global climate governance

Mazomba (19), a second-year student in the Department of Biological Sciences, explained that the organizers have called for applications from young people who are lobbying and working to tackle climate change in their local and regional contexts.

“More than 8,700 applications were received and 400 [international delegates] have been selected. [Youth4Climate] aims to bring together young people from around the world to discuss and exchange views on some key political aspects of the negotiations and deepen some key negotiating topics that will be addressed at COP26, ”said Mazomba.

“We have to ‘move differently’ from those who have come before us. “

Monaheng (27), from Lesotho, added that the call to participate and contribute to global climate governance came from the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth, the youth group of the United Nations. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) and the UK government (host of COP26).

“I hope to learn, contribute and build strong and sustainable African and global networks, with other young climate change activists who embody intergenerational solidarity in sharing knowledge and building collaborative networks that extend well to the world. – beyond Milan or Glasgow.

“We are working at COP27, which should take place on African soil. We need to ‘evolve differently’ from those before us, ”said Monaheng, a researcher at the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation and consultant for the YOUNGO Open Dialogues on Climate Change in Lesotho.

Shaped by their roots

“My personal journey which has brought me to this point is rooted in the [story] behind Lesotho’s water story, ”Monaheng said.

“It has been predicted that the next wars will be fought for natural resources like water. Contrary to popular belief, for Basotho this war has already taken place and the marginalized find themselves scavenging for debris decades later.

“Therefore, for me, a student with a foundation rooted in political and international relations, climate change and sustainable development presents a natural choice to embody a strategic repertoire advocating for environmental justice that recognizes intergenerational and interdisciplinary climate action. necessary on the African continent. continent, ”he added.

“We are one of the most unequal countries in the world and climate change threatens to exacerbate the socio-economic problems we live in. “

Mazomba, who is originally from Soweto and attended a school in the suburbs of Johannesburg, saw with his own eyes “the sheer reprehensible inequality that lives and breathes in our society”.

“We are one of the most unequal countries in the world and climate change threatens to exacerbate the socio-economic problems we live in.

“My goal is to make the voices of grassroots and marginalized communities heard at the decision-making table of the COP. Marginalized communities such as young people and women in the Global South will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change if we do not act with greater urgency, fostered by an inclusive and intersectional climate discourse, ”said Mazomba.

Mkhonza, who is completing an honors thesis on green bonds in the African market, said: “I would like to take my work on climate finance forward and engage with like-minded finance professionals working on climate finance. .

Reception by diplomats

The trio were welcomed on September 14, 2021 by the Italian Embassy and the British High Commission at the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Pretoria, in preparation for their departure for Milan.

“We had the opportunity to share our ideas, our expectations about the conference and our visions for an active fight against climate change. There was an insightful roundtable with South African and international stakeholders, ”said Monaheng.

“It was aimed at enabling us to [comment] on the state of climate action in the country and [on] our expectations for the pre-COP event later this month, ”said Mazomba.

“I would also like the perspectives of countries of the South to be included in global policies on climate change and for greater representation of young people from the South in conferences like the COP. “

Expressing a similar sentiment, Monaheng said, “I would like my current political leadership in my own context, and in Africa more broadly, to open up space for young voices without being insecure about their jobs. Climate change justice is intragenerational, with many of the predicted future scenarios “already here” in our own countries. Politics is secondary to survival.

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