Italy is co-organising next year’s COP26 Climate Conference with the UK, and Rome is placing particular emphasis on informing and involving young people regarding climate change, highlighted Italian Ambassador to South Africa Paolo Cuculi in a joint briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday. The briefing, in which his British and French counterparts also participated, was held at the UK High Commissioner’s residence, and marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Accord (which was signed in December 2015) and heralded COP26, which will be held in Glasgow in the UK next year.
“What will happen next [regarding climate change] is up to us, now,” he stressed. “The impact of our decisions, our behaviours today, will largely fall on younger generations tomorrow.”
Last year, Italy saw protests by both high school and university students regarding climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented any such protests this year.
Italy was organising a Youth for Climate conference, to precede COP26 next year. The hope was that two representatives from every country that was party to the Paris Accord (which was virtually every country in the world) would attend.
The youth conference would be held in Milan, as would the COP26 Ministerial Preparatory Summit. The last day of the youth conference would also be the first day of the Ministerial conference, and the idea was that representatives of the youth conference would brief the Ministerial meeting of the conclusions reached by the youth representatives.
The involvement of young people in dealing with climate change was especially important in Africa, emphasised Resilient 40 co-chairperson Khodani Mulaudzi. Resilient 40 was a network of young adult climate and social activists, which now embraced 29 countries. The initiative was a joint Africa-UK partnership and she explained that it aimed to highlight the issue of climate change in Africa.
“Young people make up the majority of the population in Africa,” she pointed out. No less than 70% of the African population was aged 35 or younger. “We want young people to be part of the decision-making that affects them. … This demographic should be part of the decision-making.”
The necessity of involving the youth was not only because they would be the people who would be most exposed to climate change, but also because they have innovative ideas, she observed. On the other hand, the older generation had wisdom that the young lacked. There was a need for an “intergenerational dialogue”.
“Italy will also organise a Ministerial outreach conference with African countries,” highlighted Cuculi. This would include youth organisations as well as governments, academia and other sectors.
Italy also anticipated that South Africa would play a major role in the COP26 conference. “Climate change, the environment, is crucial for our future,” he stressed.