Am I Empowered As A Youth After Attending One Regional Dialogue on Climate Action?
Updated: Feb 27
In the past few years, I was a pretentious climate advocate.
I didn’t study Environmental Science at university nor was I involved in any climate or nature-related extra-curricular activity.
My interest in climate change and sustainability began just when I was graduating. Too late…
Or was it?
My Experience in Climate Policy
Like anyone who has just had their eyes opened by things like factory farming and landfills, I got frustrated at myself for not knowing it earlier. To rectify, straight out of uni, I decided to join local groups doing cool things for the environment.
For the next few years, I tried absorbing everything from zero waste to climate policy. I can tell you that probably only 20% were absorbed into my mind. Keep in mind I had to work on my full-time job as well so time for studying was scarce.
But somehow, I managed to put up a front that I knew everything. And I think that’s mostly thanks to me declaring loud and proud of my being vegan. Because that trumps everything, right?
Long story short, I got burnt out and felt like a huge impostor. I still didn’t know much about climate policy, only that the UNFCCC does this yearly climate conference and I kept failing to attend to any one of them.
And so after about 2 years of pulling myself out and just being on the sidelines, I’ve decided to get back into the game.
Starting with the Regional Dialogue on Youth Empowerment for Climate Actions.
What is the Regional Dialogue?
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been hosting various climate talks all these years to increase awareness and empower youth to take action.
In anticipation of the upcoming climate conference, COP26, UNDP is hosting a series of dialogues throughout the year for youth to participate. This is one of them.
I’m grateful to have still kept in touch with my friend Jasmin Irisha (I wish I could link her website to boost her off-site SEO ranking but she has none lol) a.k.a. the Climate Queen. She shared the event in a WhatsApp group of alumni from a youth climate group.
Aligning my action with my values, I registered for the event.
What I Liked About the Regional Dialogue
The event took place on a Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon for about 3 hours via Zoom.
I appreciate that it wasn’t like a whole-day event. It meant that I could finish up my work in the morning and focus on the event in the afternoon.
On the first day, there was this “Hot Seat” discussion with four speakers from different countries and industries. One was doing textile waste upcycling, one was a freelance journalist, one was a Miss Earth India 2017, and the other was a climate change youth specialist. I liked this session because, after a round of introductions, they began bouncing off questions with each other, just like a casual conversation among friends.
Another thing I liked was the fast-paced marketplace session on the second day. This was basically people either “selling” their climate action programmes or showing off what their respective countries have done. The catch is that they had to do so for just 5 minutes each. As a millennial with an increasingly short attention span, I liked this lightning round kind of concept.
What I Didn’t Like About the Regional Dialogue
On Day 2, there was a breakout session. I had only one choice which was to go to the Unconference because the other two were invite-only for ministers and organizations.
In case you didn’t know, Unconference is a participant-driven meeting. So the day before, participants were given the chance to suggest topics and discuss them in breakout rooms. So one would attend a breakout room within a breakout room.
I would have enjoyed participating in a breakout room within the Unconference breakout room if not for the technical difficulty that I and many others faced.
Apparently, on some of (probably outdated) Zoom applications, one didn’t have the function to choose one of the many breakout rooms. Mine was one of them. The facilitator tried their best to manually send around 100 people to their chosen breakout rooms but, well, that’s a lot of people. Eventually, I got fed up and I left the room. I re-joined the main room half an hour later.
I’m not quite sure if it was a bug on my end or theirs but I think it’s most probably a fault on my end. I might need to update my Zoom app.
Another thing I didn’t quite like was the draggy opening session on the first day. It was all formalities and I’d rather they had cut it short if all the important people felt they need to say something.
I guess we shall wait for the TikTok generation to conquer the world and cut everything to 60 seconds or less.
My New Favourite Speaker/Climate Activist
I didn’t expect to fangirl, but I fangirl-ed.
Ernest Gibson is a Fijian with a sweet smile and long hair. He looked like he was fresh from the ocean. I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s also on the UNDP Youth Advisory Board on Climate Change which must be such an honour to be in that position.
While his sweet smile caught my attention at the start, his motivational and truthful speech gripped my heart.
Briefly, here are the three main points he touched on with supporting points:
1. There needs to be a mechanism to engage youth
Continuous, not one-off
(For organizers) Don’t do it for the photo op
(For organizers) Engage youth because it’s the right thing to do
(For youth) Say no if you feel that you’re engaged for a tokenistic thing
2. As youths, we need to realise our potential
One can’t prioritize everything so pick your battles
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything
You need to step back and know what you can/can’t do in order to realise your full potential
3.We need to work together
Because everyone has their strengths/weaknesses that we can leverage/overcome together
Find ways to make things work
Suffice to say I followed his Twitter immediately.
His final message to policy-makers?
“Listen to us like we have a buy-in like a fortune 500 company”
The Next Steps Forward
So has this dialogue empowered me as a youth?
Yes, it has. But I know I need to do a lot more.
I want to be worthy of the term "climate advocate".
So here's what I must do:
Continue learning about climate issues, possible solutions, and policies
Share my knowledge and experience with people (like this post)
Connect with local/regional youth activists/events to force my ass to be more involved
I would love to attend the COP26 in Glasgow in November even just on the outside with the rallies. But it all depends on covid and financial situations.
I'm hoping for the best, but for now, I shall be prepared.