RCE Youth Voices on Climate Action Join to Commemorate International Youth Day

  • The first ever RCE Youth Webinar was held on 11 August, 2021, commemorating International Youth Day 2021.
  • Five RCE youth members from Australia, Colombia, Zambia, Japan, and Denmark shared youth-led climate-action initiatives conducted in their RCE communities.
  • Key points of action identified within the breakout sessions included the integration of environmental education in schools, raising public awareness, and creating platforms to enable knowledge-sharing and community engagement.
  • UNU-IAS launched an RCE Youth Climate Art Challenge, providing RCE Youth with the opportunity to inspire others through art, to take action.

Over 50 participants took part in the very first RCE Youth Webinar, 'Youth Voices on Climate Change, Action for Sustainability', held on 11 August, 2021. The event was organised by the Global RCE Service Centre to commemorate International Youth Day 2021 (celebrated on 12 August globally), and provided a platform for youth to dialogue on the actions needed to address the climate crisis and how efforts can be accelerated to address the climate emergency.  

Opening Remarks from Prof. Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) highlighted the importance of International Youth Day, as well as youth presence and participation in society at the local, national, and global levels. Among RCEs, many youth have demonstrated innovative and creative leadership, and have been actively engaged in climate action. In the face of the climate emergency, Prof. Yamaguchi spoke about the central role that education can play in empowering people to understand the impact of the climate crisis, leading to the transformation in both mindset and behaviours, and becoming change agents in the process. 

Congratulatory Remarks from Mr. Takeo Sugii (Director, Office of Environmental Education, General Policy Division, Ministry's Secretariat, Ministry of the Environment, Japan) underlined the importance of youth empowerment, participation and partnership towards the realisation of sustainable societies.

A keynote speech, 'Youth Voices on Action for Sustainability - Leveraging Networks: RCE SDG Youth Challenge Youth for the Goals' was given by Ms. Brittany Hardiman (RCE Greater Western Sydney), underlining the reality that youth have inherited, however also noting the opportunity this presents for young people in how they respond as powerful agents of change.

It was at the 10th Global RCE Conference in 2016 whereby Ms. Hardiman met Emmy Rusadi (RCE Yogyakarta) which led to the creation of the RCE SDG Youth Challenge. This collaboration has resulted in an international, youth-led initiative which uses a peer-to-peer learning model, connecting youth leaders globally who are working on projects connected to one of the SDG themes, as they lead efforts towards driving change within their local communities. Ms. Hardiman highlighted a number of climate-action projects conducted within the Challenge to date, including documentary films on sustainable development and community-based adaptation, conservation service camps, community workshops, and the creation of knowledge-sharing platforms to invoke action.

Moderated by Dr. Philip Vaughter (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS), participants had a chance to engage with the keynote through a Q&A session. Speaking about the challenges, Ms. Hardiman cited the multiple time zones and connecting participants to relevant mentors to provide the needed support. Perhaps one of the most expected challenges over the past year would be the COVID-19 pandemic, however Ms. Hardiman explained how youth have adapted to these events, and found alternative ways and new platforms to connect and engage with more people, bringing an additional layer of engagement to their projects. When asked about key messages for policy makers from a youth perspective, Ms. Hardiman noted the importance of youth being included in discussions and decision-making, trusting the value of their experience and knowledge, and ensuring youth have a ‘seat at the table’.

Following the keynote, four RCE youth members from across the globe shared examples of climate actions for implementing ESD for 2030 towards achieving the SDGs. In her presentation 'Youth as Leaders in the Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles', Ms. Marcela Rodríguez (RCE Bogota, Colombia) spoke about promoting low-carbon sustainable lifestyles by empowering youth to change their behaviours, via various events, publications, webinars, alliances, conferences and through social media. They did this by promoting sustainability messages to their communities and making these visible, both informing and motivating audiences to take actions, and doing this via intelligent messaging.

Ms. Buumba Miyoba (RCE Lusaka, Zambia) presented on 'Youths and Climate Change Advocacy in Zambia', outlining their proactive advocacy initiatives including educational, awareness-raising, and behavioural change campaigns. In addition, they have formed youth-led organisations to lead the way across various climate projects in national and international organisations.

Speaking about the project 'Let's Tackle Global Warming! Virtual Museum of Science Experience', Ms. Akane Tanaka (RCE Okayama, Japan) stressed the importance of collaboration in their project’s efforts to create sustainable societies, whereby their mission has been to educate students on global warming. Their activities have included an eco-event which allowed participants to experience a virtual science museum, and to solve issues related to global warming, by getting students to think scientifically through experiments and analysis. Utilising IT within science for elementary and junior high school students, and getting university students involved in planning and management were noted as key ways to incorporate ESD within the community.

Finally, Ms. Laura Heiberg Pedersen (RCE Denmark, Denmark) provided an overview on efforts from the project 'Carpentry Apprentice for Sustainability', providing carpenters with the knowledge to work with sustainable materials and building methods that are climate-friendly. Ms. Pedersen noted “Being a carpenter gives me the opportunity to act on climate matters”, being able to have an impact in reducing emissions within the construction industry, and in turn communicating this importance to clients and producers. The project, based on vocational training, has provided the opportunity for carpentry apprentices to build capacities for action within sustainable development, who in turn have become ambassadors, highlighting the positive impacts that sustainability teaching can have.

Taking the four case studies as initiatives to build upon and adapt to their own communities, participants brainstormed ideas in breakout sessions on how to accelerate climate action. Recurring themes that came out as key points of action included the integration of environmental education in schools, raising public awareness, creating platforms to enable knowledge-sharing and community engagement, and educating (both formally and non-formally) on sustainable consumption choices. 

The webinar ended with the launch of the first RCE Youth Climate Art Challenge, which asks RCE Youth to share their voices through art and in turn inspire others to take action on the climate crisis. Entries will be featured at the 12th Global RCE Conference to be held in November, hosted by RCE Scotland and the Global RCE Service Centre. Ms. Laura Curtis-Moss from RCE Scotland provided the final words of the webinar, calling for youth involvement in the 12th Global RCE Conference, in which youth themes will be threaded throughout the programme. Youth are strongly encouraged to deliver workshops, presentations, and submit to the Online Marketplace within the Conference, providing an opportunity to contribute to motivating and inspiring others to take actions towards sustainability.

Watch a video of the Keynote Presentation and Case Presentations here.