Climate Action Now: The Role of Youth in Educational Advocacy for Global Warming

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In an era where climate change poses a significant threat to our planet, the urgency for climate action cannot be overstated. Organizations like the Climate Action Network Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (CAN EECCA) play a crucial role in mobilizing efforts to combat the climate crisis and adapt to its consequences within the region. This signifies the collective endeavor towards mitigating the impact of global warming and underscores the importance of concerted action from every sector of society, especially the youth.

Youth involvement in climate action and climate change activism is pivotal, given their stake in the future. Their energy and innovative approach to advocacy, particularly in educational settings, represent untapped potential for driving forward the goals of SDG 13 on climate action. Through schools and universities, there’s a unique opportunity to foster a culture of sustainability and resilience against climate change, empowering the next generation to champion climate change actions and contribute to a comprehensive climate action plan.

The Current Climate Crisis: Understanding the Urgency

Despite a significant portion of the population underestimating the urgency of climate change, the evidence is unequivocal: human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, are the primary drivers of global warming. Carbon dioxide, the most abundant of these gases, mainly emanates from burning fossil fuels. Methane, responsible for over a quarter of current global warming, similarly poses a severe threat.

The repercussions of a mere 1.1-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures are already manifesting as more frequent and severe weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. These changes not only signify a planet in distress but also forecast a challenging future for all its inhabitants.

To stabilize global temperatures and prevent them from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius—a threshold beyond which scientists predict catastrophic and irreversible damage—we must reduce emissions by 7.6% annually until 2030. Moreover, over 75% of methane emissions could be mitigated using existing technologies, underscoring the feasibility of significant climate action.

Immediate and decisive actions are essential to mitigate the risks associated with these extreme weather events and to secure a healthy, sustainable future for generations to come. The urgency of this situation was a focal point at COP26 in Glasgow, which saw robust participation from youth advocates pushing for rapid and substantial climate action.

The impacts of climate change are particularly stark for the younger generation. A child born in 2020 is projected to experience twice as many wildfires, nearly three times as many river floods, and almost seven times more heatwaves compared to someone born in 1960. This stark increase in climate-related disasters highlights the disproportionate burden the youth face, and the critical importance of integrating climate action into global development strategies, as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Given these dire predictions, it’s clear that the current climate crisis demands urgent and sustained action, not only from governments and corporations but from every individual, especially the youth, who stand to inherit this warming world.

Youth Activism in Climate Change: Global Movements and Success Stories

The momentum of youth activism in the realm of climate change is undeniable, driven by passionate individuals and groups around the globe. Their actions, ranging from local initiatives to global movements, showcase a commitment to combating the climate crisis.

Global Movements and Influential Figures

  1. COP26 Participation: Thousands of young people gathered at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, advocating for decisive measures to avert the climate crisis.
  2. Fridays for Future: Initiated by Greta Thunberg, this movement has inspired millions of students worldwide to protest against climate change inaction, highlighting the power of youth mobilization.
  3. Influential Voices: Figures like Greta Thunberg have not only participated in global protests but have also addressed significant events such as the United Nations Climate Action Summit, bringing youth voices to the forefront of climate discourse.

Initiatives Driving Change

  1. Green Rising by UNICEF: Aiming to engage 10 million young people by 2025, this initiative focuses on community volunteerism, advocacy, and skills development to foster youth-led climate action.
  2. Educational and Community Projects: From planting trees to starting environmental committees in schools, young activists are making substantial contributions to their communities. Notable projects include the Green Generation Initiative, which has planted over 30,000 tree seedlings in Kenya.

Intersectionality and Broader Engagement

  1. Expanding the Movement: The youth climate movement is increasingly intersecting with other social justice causes, such as Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights, enriching the dialogue around climate justice.
  2. Academic Influence: College students have successfully pressured institutions like Harvard University to divest from fossil fuels, demonstrating the impact of organized student efforts.

Personal Stories of Activism

  1. Diverse Backgrounds and Actions: Activists like Ilyess El Korbi and Dominique Palmer bring unique perspectives to the movement, addressing issues from racial and gender equality to the specific challenges faced by their regions.
  2. Young Innovators: Even elementary students, such as six-year-old Anayah from Brooklyn, are taking initiative by addressing environmental issues in their schools, proving that age is just a number when it comes to activism.

This surge in youth activism not only emphasizes the critical role of young people in climate action but also showcases their unique ability to leverage digital technology and innovate solutions. Their deep-rooted interest in securing a sustainable future for all underscores the importance of their involvement in shaping climate policies and actions globally.

Educational Advocacy for Climate Action: The Role of Schools and Universities

Initiatives and Programs in Educational Institutions

Educational institutions play a pivotal role in shaping the future of climate action through various initiatives and programs aimed at enhancing climate literacy and fostering sustainable practices.

  1. Climate Literacy and Engagement Programs: Programs like the Climate Action Academy by 2811 offer a specialized four-week course for educators. This program is designed to deepen understanding of climate science, help educators make personal connections to the climate crisis, and aid them in developing effective lesson plans tailored to their students’ needs and grade levels. Similarly, the Climate Literacy Campaign by advocates for compulsory climate education that includes assessment and a robust civic engagement component.
  2. University-Led Sustainability Education: Universities are crucial in educating the next generation of environmental stewards. Institutions like Indiana University in the U.S. have integrated sustainability into their general education requirements, ensuring that all students, regardless of their major, receive education on sustainability and climate action. This approach is supported by the recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary training, which includes experiential learning in science communication and leadership.
  3. Addressing Educational Gaps: Despite the critical role of education in climate action, there are notable gaps in how climate change and sustainability are taught across curriculums. Efforts are underway to address these gaps, with some schools and universities incorporating climate change education more thoroughly into their programs.

Role of Schools in Human Capacity Building

Schools are instrumental in building the human capacity necessary for effective climate action. They serve as primary venues for educating individuals about sustainable practices and the importance of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

  1. Comprehensive Climate Change Education: Schools are tasked with preparing individuals to adopt sustainable practices that significantly reduce their impact on climate change. This involves not only imparting knowledge but also fostering critical thinking skills and an understanding of the ethical dimensions of climate action.
  2. Integration with Poverty Reduction and Sustainability Efforts: Effective climate action education is often conducted in coordination with broader efforts aimed at poverty reduction and sustainability, reflecting the interconnected nature of these global challenges.
  3. Cultivating Competencies for Climate Action: It is essential that education equips people with the necessary competencies—knowledge, motivation, and skills—to effectively respond to climate challenges. This includes the ability to understand and make choices about environmental trade-offs and to develop innovative solutions that are sustainable in the long term.

Enhancing University Contributions to Climate Action

Universities are not only educational institutions but also key players in advancing societal understanding and action on climate change. They are increasingly taking on responsibilities that extend beyond traditional education and research roles.

  1. Promoting Carbon Neutral Practices: Many universities are setting examples by adopting carbon neutral goals and practices, thereby reducing their institutional carbon footprints. This also involves educating future professionals, such as environmental auditors and community organizers, about sustainable practices and climate action.
  2. Engagement in Public Advocacy and Activism: Academics are encouraged to engage in public advocacy and activism to drive transformational change. This includes moving beyond traditional academic outputs to actively participating in community and policy-making processes that address climate change.
  3. Supporting Academic Freedom in Climate Advocacy: Universities can play a supportive role by recognizing advocacy as part of academic duties, facilitating engaged research, and defending academics’ rights to engage in protest and advocacy without fear of repercussion.

These educational efforts are crucial for equipping current and future generations with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle climate change effectively. By integrating climate education into their curricula and operations, schools and universities not only contribute to raising awareness but also empower individuals to take meaningful actions towards a more sustainable future.

Empowering Youth Through Technology and Innovation

Initiatives and Impact of Youth in Climate Technology

Mobile Technology for Climate Awareness

The Better World Organization for Community Development (BWOCD) has launched a mobile application specifically designed to engage youth aged 12 to 16. This app focuses particularly on empowering young women in Duhok and Kabarto Camp, providing them with tools and information to address climate change effectively.

Innovations in Climate Adaptation Technologies

Youth are at the forefront of developing innovative technologies to adapt to climate change impacts. These include advancements in flood safeguards, more resilient agricultural practices, water purification and recycling systems, and improved weather forecasting technologies. The involvement of young minds in these developments is crucial, as emphasized by Suil Kang, Chief Supervisor of IERI, who advocates for active youth participation in technology development and deployment.

Representation in Climate Technology Governance

The UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC) has recognized the importance of youth in climate technology by including a dedicated youth seat on the Advisory Board of the UNFCCC’s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). This inclusion ensures that the perspectives and innovations of young people are considered in high-level discussions and decisions.

Funding Opportunities for Young Innovators

Access to adequate financial resources is vital for young innovators looking to develop technological solutions for climate action. Claudia Lasprilla Pina from the Adaptation Fund Board highlights various funding windows under the AFB innovation facility, such as the Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA), which are specifically designed to support youth initiatives.

Supporting Youth Climate Resilience Projects

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) focuses on youth and adaptation by backing local youth-led climate resilience projects. This support not only empowers young individuals but also fosters community-based approaches to tackling climate challenges.

Youth-Driven Climate Innovation Initiatives

UNICEF’s “Young Climate Innovators Shaping the Future” initiative is another platform that invests in the innovative ideas and technologies of young people. This initiative targets individuals under 30, providing them with opportunities to act as stakeholders, technical experts, and change-makers in the climate action sphere. Innovators from diverse regions, including Senegal, Jordan, and Myanmar, have developed solutions like E-Cover, AquaPoro’, and Housing Now, addressing specific climate challenges faced by their communities.

Showcasing Innovations at Global Forums

At COP28, 24 young innovators selected by Innovation30 had the opportunity to pitch their transformative climate solutions to global leaders and decision-makers, emphasizing the role of youth in driving substantial climate action.

Overcoming Financial Barriers Through Digital Platforms

Despite the challenges posed by financial barriers, leveraging technology and digital platforms can facilitate fundraising and support for climate projects. Alternative financing mechanisms are crucial in empowering youth-led climate initiatives, ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder the participation and impact of young people in climate action.

Challenges and Barriers to Youth Engagement

Tokenism and Ageism in Climate Discourse

Youth often face tokenism in climate change discussions, where their contributions are undervalued due to ageist perceptions that label them as problematic or ungrateful for the efforts of older generations.

Eco-Anxiety and Mental Health Challenges

A significant percentage of youth, at least 60%, experience eco-anxiety, with 45% stating that it impacts their daily lives. This anxiety is particularly acute among rural youth who are more exposed to the effects of natural disasters and environmental degradation. Additionally, there is a notable lack of mental health resources tailored to support rural youth.

Disconnect Between Concern and Action

Despite high levels of concern about climate change among youth, there is a notable disconnect between their concern and the actions they take. Studies indicate that while many young people are willing to engage in pro-environmental behaviors, they tend to choose actions that are easier and less effective compared to those that require more effort but are more impactful.

Limited Youth Participation in Policy Development

Youth participation in policy development is critically low, which significantly limits their influence and engagement in meaningful climate action.

Regional Variations in Engagement

Engagement levels vary significantly by region; higher community-level engagement is observed in Asia and Africa, whereas policy engagement is more prevalent in developed countries, particularly among men.

Adult-Centric Structures and Discrimination

The climate action realm is often dominated by adult-centric structures and systemic discrimination, which hinder equitable power sharing and the promotion of intersectionality.

Financial Barriers

A lack of access to funding and a limited understanding of how to navigate financial opportunities are major barriers that prevent young people from fully engaging in climate initiatives.

Obstacles in Climate Adaptation

Youth engagement in climate change adaptation is hampered by several factors including limited access, insufficient knowledge, lack of resources, and inadequate resilience, especially in developing countries.

Strengthening Youth Engagement

To enhance youth engagement, it is essential to focus on education, skill-building, supportive policies, adequate financing, and resilience-building projects. These efforts should be supported by community-based organizations, NGOs, local and national governments, and international bodies like the United Nations.


Throughout this exploration of the significant role youth play in climate action, we have witnessed their boundless energy, innovative spirit, and unwavering commitment to forging a sustainable future. From mobilizing within educational settings to pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation, young people are not just passengers on this journey; they are leading the charge against the climate crisis. The narratives woven through the global movements, educational advocacy, and technological advancements underscore the vital need for their voices and perspectives in crafting solutions that will endure for generations to come.

However, the path forward is not without its challenges. Tokenism, eco-anxiety, financial barriers, and limited participation in policy development are substantial hurdles that young activists face. Despite these obstacles, the resilience and creativity displayed by youth around the world offer hope. By continuing to support, listen to, and empower young individuals in their climate action endeavors, we can unlock the potential for meaningful change. The collective efforts of the youth, supported by comprehensive educational programs and equitable opportunities, underscore an optimistic future wherein the fight against climate change is not only possible but is already underway.


1. How do young people contribute to increasing awareness about climate change?
Youth activists are instrumental in heightening awareness about environmental challenges. They engage in educational initiatives and advocacy efforts to equip their peers and broader communities with essential knowledge on topics such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable practices.

2. What significance do young individuals hold in the climate change discourse?
Young individuals are pivotal in the fight against climate change, essential for forging a sustainable future. They contribute a fresh perspective, creativity, and a vested interest in the planet’s long-term health, making their involvement crucial in addressing climate issues.

3. What actions can students take to advocate for climate change solutions?
Students can advocate for climate change solutions through various actions such as implementing solar power solutions in homes and buildings, transitioning from coal to renewable energy sources like wind and solar for electricity, purchasing electric vehicles, reducing electricity usage, shopping sustainably, and actively encouraging governments to enforce robust environmental policies.

4. What is the Youth4Climate initiative?
Launched in May 2022, the Youth4Climate initiative is a collaborative effort between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Italy. It operates under the UNDP Rome Centre for Climate Action and Energy Transition, focusing on empowering youth in climate action and sustainable practices.

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