Youth engagement is key to climate adaptation programs

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According to a recent study published by the Adaptation Fund, young people have much more to offer their communities and countries through multi-level climate action.

Specifically, youth take on multiple roles in adaptation projects, including as community builders, knowledge brokers and guardians, yet youth empowerment, The report finds, still has a long way to go.

But that doesn’t stop young people from becoming more engaged in adaptation efforts and in the climate space in general.

We can look to the school strikes for climate and the activism started by Greta Thunberg as an example of the importance of climate change for young people. Adaptation has played a key role in Thunberg’s activism in particular, given his 2019 donation to the Adaptation Fund and three other organizations of EUR25,000 after winning the prestigious Freedom Award.

The report found that drivers of youth engagement in Adaptation Fund projects included exposure to extreme weather events, climate change awareness, leadership characteristics and willingness to learn, to experiment and develop ideas and tools.

“When projects implement practical solutions and physical outcomes, young people are more likely to participate as it improves their skills and perception of effectiveness in the face of climate change,” says Cristina Dengel, Knowledge Management Manager of the Adaptation Fund who led the production of the report.

“Another important driver of engagement is to develop a youth engagement strategy with appropriate communication materials that connect with young people, such as social media and online platforms and to have project partners focused on young people such as youth networks as a key institutional partner,” she adds.

Building ecosystems

The report cites adaptation training, support from family members and dedicated youth funding as key enablers of youth participation.

The Adaptation Fund sees youth participation in many of its projects and has continued to expand opportunities for young people.

In the Seychelles, young people have responded as ‘builders’ of ecosystem functionality to defend against coastal flooding by planting trees and plowing palm trees, while an Armenian innovation project sees young people as “actors of change” in their involvement in a playful environmental education program focused on the dissemination of knowledge on adaptation.

More recently, the Fund’s new Innovation Facility, an initiative that aims to build the organization’s innovation capabilities, lists youth as one of the themes it will seek to cover and develop. Its Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA), for example, cites young entrepreneurs as a key group among a wider range of stakeholders that it aims to apply for its grants.

In addition, the Fund’s environmental, social and gender policies, as well as its medium-term strategies, promote the engagement of young people as a vulnerable group in all of its projects and programs.

“Youth empowerment is key in adaptation, not only to help educate and equip the next generation to deal with the urgency of climate change with increased awareness and practical tools, but also to engage young people leaders to promote new ideas and innovative approaches for vulnerable countries and communities to adapt to climate change,” said Mr. Mikko Ollikainen, Head of the Adaptation Fund.

Overcome barriers

As the Adaptation Fund tries to take youth engagement even further and provide more opportunities for youth leadership or empowerment through its programs, the study recommended ways to overcome some of the challenges that stand in the way.

“Several barriers prevent young people from participating in coping interventions,” says Dengel. “Among these, some are related to the needs of the project where participation is necessary frequently and during working hours, which poses a problem for young people who study or work. Projects also tend to invest in young professionals who already need practical technical skills, who tend to be the most experienced professionals and practitioners. »

Going forward, the report suggests that young people should be involved in adaptation at multiple levels by encouraging youth quotas on community committees, developing youth-government partnerships and establishing leadership coaching programs. and in project management.

“Given that young people will be exposed longer and harder to the impacts of climate change than older generations, which increases their risk factors at many levels, at individual, community, local and national level, and their role as as agents of change, it is of paramount importance that they are involved in climate action and adaptation [from early on]says Dengel.

Importantly, the report argues that, on the path to resilience, young people should be seen as active agents of change who, as Dengel describes, are “rather dynamic, creative, innovative and open-minded”. – characteristics that ultimately help them to “propel societies”.

Join the Adaptation Fund Cop27 event on youth engagement in adaptation on November 11, 2022, also broadcast live.

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