Young People Holding World Leaders Accountable at UN Youth Climate Summit

Zehra Khan and David Chapoloko participated in the UNA-USA UN Youth Climate Summit Virtual Blogger Fellowship. Here they offer two viewpoints of the relationship between young people and world leaders in addressing the climate crisis.

Zehra Khan:

Young leaders are frustrated by the inaction of global leaders.

I was able to virtually participate in the UN Youth Climate Summit through UNA-USA. I feel very humbled by this opportunity. I believe adding the virtual component of the Blogger Fellowship reflects UNA-USA’s commitment to accessibility, and to global engagement generally. Just because we are not physically there, doesn’t mean we can’t have an impact and be involved in the conversation.

Climate change is a bridge we are building, that we want to cross. This bridge is not singular in creation. It requires an integration of intersectional standpoints. In order for the bridge to remain sturdy it must be built by everyone who believes that the time has always been now.

At the Climate Action Summit, Greta Thunberg addressed a lack of action by world leaders in addressing the climate crisis. Thunberg’s passionate message echoed the frustrations of many climate activists with their elected officials.

Greta stated, “You are failing us, and young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”

Youth activists including Thunberg, Isra Hirsi, and many more have been key community organizers addressing national, global, and local legislative reform. Youth climate activists have successfully flooded the streets, but local and national governments have been slow to create general consensus and policy commitments. The current presidential administration has pulled out of key climate commitments like the Paris Agreement, and has not taken significant measures to address the global impact of the climate crisis. Meanwhile, NASA, EPA, The Department of Energy, the UN, and activists around the world have called attention and solutions the global climate crisis.

We are frustrated –– but we still have time. We can still meet our climate action goals, and mitigate the current affects of the climate crisis. Governments may have power, but young people can also drive change at the local and national levels. We all have the potential to organize and be driving forces in our communities. We can always take a step forward.

David Chapoloko:

Regardless of resistance, young people must charge forward.

During the UN Youth Climate Summit, I was inspired by a session where young people on the panel could fire their questions and requests to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. They pointed out the climate injustices going on in the various parts of the world, and the negative impacts of climate change.

In his response, the Secretary-General stressed that he was aware how global leaders talk too much and listen too little. He commended the leadership and dynamism he has seen in youth movement towards climate action and encouraged young people to keep pushing forward. He said we should not stop holding his generation accountable and make sure they do not betray the future. These words touched me the most.

It’s seems like the older generation – at least most of them – have come to terms with their responsibility and feel accountable for the crisis. However, they need us – the younger generation with fresh minds – to help provide solutions. As UNA-USA this is where we need to rise and show that we are not just concerned about the future, but we also have ideas of how to face it. Let us tell them what to do and demand that it is done.