Sixteen-year-old Nafeesa Baloch came all the way from Balochistan province, in southwestern Pakistan, to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh to participate in the Children and Youth Pavilion at the COP27 Climate Summit.
The pavilion is located in the Blue Zone, the central, U.N.-managed space where the summit’s main negotiations will take place. Its prominent position highlights the importance that Egypt, as the COP27 presidency, placed on empowering young people in the climate debate and making sure their voices are heard.
Baloch was among the crowds of youth from around the world who flocked to the Children and Youth Pavilion on Thursday, November 10, which was designated Youth and Future Generations Day.
From the pavilion, Baloch told Al-Fanar Media: “I dream of living in a different reality where climate justice prevails, where children do not die every day in poor areas, and where a father does not need to sell his daughter—as is happening in my community—to feed the rest of his family.”
“I am here so that my family and community members do not go thirsty for lack of clean drinking water, so that the rain does not uproot them for lack of a roof over their heads, and so that children do not die of cholera caused by devastating floods.”Nafeesa Baloch, a young Pakistani at the COP27 summit.
“I am here to defend our right to survive, and to deliver the voices of my country’s children, where no one hears us,” she added enthusiastically, attributing her participation in the global event to her desire to spread awareness of climate change and demand climate justice everywhere.
“I am here so that my family and community members do not go thirsty for lack of clean drinking water, so that the rain does not uproot them for lack of a roof over their heads, and so that children do not die of cholera caused by devastating floods,” Baloch said.
She added: “I call on the gathered world leaders to do something.”
Messages to World Leaders
On the walls of the Children and Youth Pavilion, young people have attached colourful drawings and urgent messages, asking summit officials and representatives of international organisations to “save the planet and ensure a stable and secure future for the coming generations.”
Saad Uakkas, programme coordinator at the pavilion, told Al-Fanar Media that COP27 was the first climate summit to organise a pavilion for children and youth to give them a specific, official space for holding events and expressing their views.
Uakkas added that the pavilion will be open throughout the conference to allow young people to share discussions together, exchange ideas, and come up with more initiatives to lead change and influence the climate debate.
Uakkas noted that young climate activists around the world have thousands of followers on social media and provide important awareness messages. They have played an influential role in calling for action to save the planet, as well as leading initiatives in their local communities to clean up rivers and natural areas and cultivate trees, among other activities.
Youth-Led Calls for Change
Children and young people around the world are among the most prominent voices calling for climate action.
Fridays for Future is one of the most famous movements led by young people. The organisation started in August 2018 after Greta Thunberg, then 15, started a sit-in in front of the Swedish Parliament to protest the lack of action on the climate crisis. Other young activists joined Thunberg, and she posted about what they were doing on Instagram and Twitter. Her posts quickly went viral, and a local demonstration turned into a global movement calling for action for a cleaner, cooler, and happier world.
Many Ways of Getting Involved
Leading a demonstration isn’t the only way young people can participate in calls for action to protect the planet.
Jadwiga Najder, a nuclear engineer who is part of a grass-roots organisation called Nuclear for Climate, told Al-Fanar Media that young people can also get involved by joining educational programmes that prepare them for future jobs that contribute to the fight against climate change in various fields, such as science, technology and law.
“Our message to world leaders is that we must act immediately to provide stable living conditions where children can grow up healthy.”Jadwiga Najder, a nuclear engineer who is part of a grass-roots group called Nuclear for Climate.
Nuclear for Climate’s members include nuclear professionals and scientists from over 150 associations worldwide. In a position paper for COP27, the group calls on negotiators and policymakers at the summit “to take a scientific and technology-neutral approach to energy policy and financing” and to promote sustainable collaboration between nuclear and renewable energies.
The organisation offers many programmes, workshops and innovative events working toward its climate action goals, Najder said. It hopes to inspire young people to be advocates for climate action in whatever field they are passionate about.
The group’s message to young people, Najder said, is to be brave, and to think about what role they can play, based on their skills.
“Our message to world leaders,” she added, “is that we must act immediately to provide stable living conditions where children can grow up healthy.”
Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative repercussions of climate change, Unicef and other agencies have warned.
A “Children’s Climate Risk Index” that Unicef issued in August 2021 reported that half of the world’s two billion children were living in countries at “extremely high risk” of climate shocks. A new report issued last month predicted that by 2050, nearly every child on the planet will be exposed to more frequent, longer lasting, and more severe heat waves.
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Read more about the COP27 climate summit and global climate concerns in Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these topics.