Around 400 young people from all over the world have been able to present their proposals for tackling climate change to the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Minister for Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma, and environment ministers from more than 40 countries. Ministers representing the international community are tasked with delivering a decisive agreement at COP26 in Glasgow next month to tackle the urgent global threat of climate change.
At the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan (28 – 30 September), four co-chairs representing the youth delegates, Nisreen Elsaim (Sudan), Ernest Gibson (Fiji), Nathan Metenier (France), and Sophia Kianni (USA), set out key asks from the under-30s.
The hope is that Youth4Climate was not a one-off event in order to strengthen and maintain international dialogues: this was stressed by Minister Cingolani and Alok Sharma, and supported by Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Reducing inequalities, involving young people in decision-making processes, encouraging a public-private aid program, are just some of the proposals that came out of the meetings.
Addressing the youth delegates, Prime Minister Draghi said “Your generation is the most threatened by climate change. You are right to ask for empowerment, to ask for change. The ecological transition is not a choice, it is a necessity. We have only two options. Either we face the costs of this transition now, or we act later – which would mean paying the much higher price of a climate disaster.
“We are aware that we must do more, much more. This will be the goal of the summit in Rome that will be held at the end of October. At the G20 level, we want to make a commitment regarding the goal of containing global warming below 1.5 degrees. And we want to develop long-term strategies that are consistent with this goal.”
Mr. Draghi did not avoid the issue raised by Greta Thunberg in her speech on Tuesday: “Sometimes the “blah blah blah” is just a way to hide our inability to take action, but when you carry out such big transformations you have to convince people, explain that numbers, such as the increase of 1.5 degrees, are not something created out of the blue but are provided by science, and people must be convinced of this”.
Another key issue, raised with energy and passion by a Ugandan climate activist, Vanessa Nakate, and by other delegates from developing countries, was that of financial support for poor countries and/or those most at risk from the effects of climate change.
Mr. Cingolani announced that he would encourage the Government to double Italy’s contribution to one billion euros.
He also underlined the geopolitical challenge: “Sustainability for me is a compromise. We have to be super-fast in mitigating the effects of climate change, but slow enough not to destroy jobs. It’s not easy, it’s very difficult. And it’s a different tradeoff from country to country. The solutions have to be state-specific, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.”
All eyes are now on the Pre-Cop, which began on Thursday afternoon and continues until Saturday. Ministers gathered in Milan will need to lay the foundations for a successful COP26 in Glasgow that strengthens global climate commitments.
Alok Sharma, Minister Cingolani, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, and delegates Vladislav Kaim, from Moldova, and Reem Al Saffar, from Iraq, all spoke at a closing press conference.
Following the meeting, Mr. Sharma said: “The messages we have heard from young people here at Youth4Climate should serve as a wake-up call to ministers around the world. Their outcomes, which align with many of our goals for COP26, will help to inform this critical multilateral process.
“This is a generation that faces frightening consequences, and will rightly judge us if we fail to act. We must be able to look young people in the eye and say that we did everything necessary to protect their future.
“Keeping a 1.5C future alive hinges on COP26 in Glasgow. So we must make Pre-COP count, ensuring that we lay the foundations for successful negotiations and address the ambition gaps on adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage, and finance, as well as finalizing the Paris Rulebook. Like the last time many of us will meet before Glasgow, I hope we can build on the sense of common purpose that was achieved at the July Ministerial in London.”