This resource from Jorge Garza and Joanne Huy is also available in French. Click here to access the French version.
We need youth leadership more than ever
The pandemic and the effects of the climate crisis on mental health, prosperity, and quality of life have unequal impacts in society, increasingly affecting youth who are often more vulnerable to climate disruptions than adults who tend to have stronger networks and better-paid jobs.
Youth play a critical role in advancing climate action. Through advocacy, community leadership, and knowledge mobilization, youth are contributing to challenging the status quo and shifting policy and regulations. While more than 80% of Canadian youth believe that it is unlikely that Canada will meet its 2030 climate target, youth have not lost hope and continue to be at the forefront in mobilizing for climate and social change.
Despite their valuable contributions to driving transformational change, youth are often the least likely to be engaged in climate change discussions. Their consent and input are not always respected by the decision-makers shaping their lives, who might agree on common goals but disagree on how to pursue them. As Kat Cadungog suggests, the impact of divisions within the social sector can result in a gridlock effect which limits the agency of youth and other equity-seeking groups to drive change:
"I would like to see the [social] sector facilitating autonomy, empowering people locally, and granting an open forum to many disparate groups and individuals, rather than trying to settle on the best theory to underpin climate action. [The] way forward is to hear the voices that can so easily be silenced — or left in obscurity on account of powerlessness.”
Six inspiring examples of youth climate leadership
Here are just a few of the countless extraordinary examples of youth climate leadership:
Youth Climate Lab
Youth Climate Lab enables youth to design, pilot, and scale experiments tackling problems faced by young people globally in their fight against climate change. Their projects focus on three shifts: skills (honing creative leadership skills, systems thinking, and collaborative problem solving), policy (bridging art-based approaches, radical collaboration, and climate justice), and finance (fostering new pathways to scale youth-led initiatives).
Foundation for Environmental Stewardship
Accredited by the United Nations, the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship (FES) empowers youth to create a more inclusive and sustainable future by changing lifestyles, and telling powerful stories through training, education, advocacy, and mentorship. FES held two flagship programs: 3% Project & SDGs Launch Program which empowers youth and raises awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals.
Indigenous Climate Action
As a leader in advancing climate justice and reconciliation, Indigenous Climate Action offers training opportunities to amplify the voices of Indigenous youth, who have access to wellness support and online gatherings that are focused on advancing just transitions and developing leadership skills.
Future City Builders
Future City Builders brings together 25 youth to design solutions for more livable communities by equipping them with skills to explore the topics that affect their local communities the most, from food security to governance. To date, the program has worked with over 295 youth over the last 3 years to pitch 60 projects across Canada and pilot 30 solutions.
Community Climate Council
The Community Climate Council is a youth-founded organization advocating for climate action in Peel region, Ontario. Through ecosystem mapping, community engagement, political literacy and advocacy, the Community Climate Council is bringing forth community-led solutions.
Future Ancestors Services
Future Ancestors Services is an Indigenous, Black and youth-led professional services social enterprise that advances climate justice with the lenses of anti-racism, decolonization and ancestral accountability. They support communities by addressing systemic issues in society, our connections to land, and planetary wellbeing. To date, they have worked with 300+ diverse clients and their services have directly reached 150,000 people.
The mobilization of youth in advancing climate action demonstrates the power they hold to lead change. And while there is an overall agreement that governments must lead the way in accelerating just transitions, youth play a unique role in mobilizing communities to demand a rapid transition to renewable energy that also addresses social inequities.
Take your learning further
- Find out more about our work enabling transition pathways for current and future generations, and improving outcomes for youth who face barriers to employment and education.
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- Learn more about the 19 communities who are participating in our Climate Transitions Cohort.