The Government of Italy has announced that it will host two events in September-October 2021, in the lead up to COP26. This article has been updated in February 2021 to reflect the postponement of the events (from 2020) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On 4 February 2020, the UK and Italian Prime Ministers, Boris Johnson and Giuseppe Conte, officially launched the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), marking the start of the 2020 UK Year of Climate Action. The UK will host COP26 in Glasgow, and co-hosts Italy will organise several key preparatory events including a Youth Event and the Pre-COP Summit.
The Youth Event will be called ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition‘ and will take place in Milan, Italy from 28-30 September 2021. The second event, the pre-COP Summit All4Climate Italy 2021, will take place from 30 September – 2 October 2021. These events, according to Conte, “need help and solidarity from all of us.”
The events will comprise a mix of in-person and virtual participation. It is necessary to apply for your place and the application forms and process are explained fully on the Italian hosts’ website here (in English). The deadline to apply to the Pre-COP Summit is 15 June 2021.
Youth engagement in climate policy is becoming a hot topic. Prevailing climate science finds that the effects of climate change are likely to become more severe unless governments act quickly to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The most recent prediction from the Climate Action Tracker estimates that on current policy trends the world is heading for a potentially devastating 3 degree temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Today’s politicians are unlikely to be around for these effects – it’ll be their children and grandchildren: the youth of today. UNICEF currently estimates that around 160 million children live in areas experiencing high levels of drought, and by 2040, 1 in 4 children will live in areas of extreme water stress.
“[The youth climate movement] certainly drove us to speed up… The seriousness with which Greta [Thunberg], but also many, many other young people, are telling us that this is about their lives, and that their life spans extend further, has led us to approach the matter more resolutely.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel, featured in The New York Times
While the global youth climate voice has been building public momentum from the outside through the Fridays for Future movement, it’s also been working to accelerate climate action from within the UNFCCC, the body in charge of the COP process.
Non-governmental youth organisations (YOUNGO) is now very well established as one of the civil society ‘constituencies’ represented in the UNFCCC. Every year YOUNGO organises the Conference of Youth (COY), during the weekend before the annual COP conference. The COY brings together young people from around the world who are passionate about addressing climate change and promoting sustainable lifestyles. It provides a space for swapping experiences, knowledge and good practices to strengthen the international youth climate movement and involve next generations in developing climate actions. It is also a nuts-and-bolts opportunity for youth groups to hammer out their negotiating priorities for the full climate conference ahead.
And it’s not just the COY. At COP25 UNESCO launched the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN), a new initiative that seeks to reinforce youth-led climate action by supporting young people and existing youth networks, and by building bridges between them.
With all these initiatives underway, and now bolstered by the dedicated youth pre-COP events in late September in Milan, we can count on having rich intergenerational perspectives at COP26.