UN chief asks youth groups for help with climate challenge

Last Thursday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took part in a virtual meeting with young people gathered in Bonn, attending the latest round of UN Climate Talks. Two of those who took part write about their experience.

By Louisa Casson and Tariq Al-Olaimy

Describing youth as ‘agents of change’, the Secretary General was joined by his Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi.

He spoke to 18 members of Youth United for Climate Progess (YOUNGO), the official youth constituency to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The meeting was broadcast live to the public, and youth worldwide were able to engage engage on Facebook and on twitter using the #TellBanKiMoon hashtag to send their messages and ideas to the Secretary General on issues related to youth, climate change and inter-generational equity.

“I want to hear your voice and views on how to build momentum to solve climate change,” Ban told the assembled participants.

He added that “Youth need to remind political leaders of their moral responsibility” within the movement to take action against climate change, stressing their power through the ballot box.

Ban assured youth that they would play a key role in his Climate Change Leaders’ Summit to catalyze ambitious action on the ground, to reduce emissions and to strengthen climate resilience.

He also clarified that “When I say “leaders”, I’m talking about Government leaders, but I’m also talking about leaders from business, finance and civil society, including youth.

Emphaising that youth play the biggest role in building the momentum needed to tackle climate change, he said “You are in the middle of a great transition era. To address climate change, we need fresh and innovative ideas.”

Too often, he said, adults work to preserve business as usual and the status quo. “Young people approach problems with new ideas and a new perspective,” he said.


Munira Abdelkader from Saudi Arabia asked: “where do you envision youth playing the biggest role in building momentum needed to tackle climate change?”.

Ban replied: “I hope you challenge your community so they have greater moral and political responsibility for your futures”, while avowing to himself work with political leaders and civil society to catalyse climate action on the ground.

Emphasising that “we cannot negotiate with nature. Nature does not wait”, the Secretary General outlined his plans to convene a high-level climate meeting of world leaders in 2014 in order to mobilise political will and catalyse commitments for the planned global climate deal in 2015.

In response to Sabrina Marquant from France, who asked how he was going to enable youth to take the helm in steering the international community towards a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future at the 2014 summit, Ban said that empowering, enabling and supporting youth was one of his top priorities in tackling “this most pressing issue” of climate change.

At last week’s UN talks in Bonn, YOUNGO helped to launch the Youth in Action  report.

The publication highlights concrete action young people are taking to incite their governments to scale up action on climate change and raise ambition towards a post-2020 climate change regime.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Ban asked the youth representatives “Are you ready to take up the challenge?”. We are – next stop Warsaw!

All messages received by 30 June 2013 will be captured and brought to the Secretary General’s attention, with a selection having already been read to the Secretary General during the meeting. 

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