Leverage youth potential to end climate change

Peace Mbeiza

What you need to know:

There is need to create opportunities and skilling youth in green jobs

Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Youth Day.

As we celebrate  this day, a famine rages on in Karamoja Sub-region while residents in Mbale are still reeling from the after-effects of the devastating floods that have left tens dead  and hundreds homeless.

Many parts of Uganda are caught in the firm grip of a climate change.  It is now evident more than ever that we are in a climate emergency. Sadly,  young people are the most vulnerable group to the impacts of climate change as their lives and futures continue to be disrupted.

Last year, I was part of a team of young researchers who conducted a study on the impacts of climate change on young people’s lives and livelihoods in Karamoja, and Jinja  City. This research was jointly conducted by Restless Development, Cambridge University, Makerere University and funded by the British Academy.

Our findings in  The living in the climate crisis: Young people in Uganda report revealed that  young people have the potential to end the climate change crisis in their communities if given meaningful opportunities and full support to lead from the forefront.

 During our study, a youth from Karamoja emphasised the need to listen to young people’s rich ideas. “Look and consider the ideas of young people. Though most of us come from humble backgrounds, we have rich ideas,” said the  25-year old student.

Although we captured several of these voices on various issues and shared them with policy makers, no action has been taken to address the plight of our youth.

During our study, we found out that climate change has disrupted the livelihoods of young people, exacerbated climate-driven loss, caused displacement and negatively affected their mental health.

While the Ministry of Education and Sports is committed to promoting age-appropriate sexuality education through its national curriculum, it is high time that climate change education is integrated into the education system from primary school through tertiary schools to lay the groundwork for sustainable climate studies.

This will equip young people with relevant information and skills in environmental conservation, climate change mitigation, and adaptation strategies.

Additionally, there is  need to create opportunities and skilling youth in green jobs to enable them to shift to alternative climate resilient livelihoods.

Plastic recycling is one of the viable green jobs.   According to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), Uganda generates 600 tonnes of plastics daily. This could be an area to consider.

Additionally, young people need financial support to enable them to mitigate and adapt effectively to the impacts of climate change.

Youth groups have been flagged as one of the biggest recipients of the Parish Development Model (PDM) funds as they will receive 30 percent of the money. We are optimistic that they will be empowered and trained to use these resources in ways that preserve the environment.

 On the other hand, government should consider inclusive approaches that engage young people across all age groups in research around climate change mitigation and adaptation to generate a stronger understanding of intersectional climate-related issues that will lead to tailored sector-specific solutions.

In line with this year’s International Youth Day theme, “Inter-generational solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages,” government, the private sector, and civil society should foster collaborations and inter-generational dialogues across all ages. This starts with acknowledging that youth power is the solution to ending the climate emergency in Uganda.

In order to achieve this, young people must be fully supported and given the platforms to amplify their voices, ensuring that they are heard and acted upon.

Inclusive dialogues at the national, regional and local government levels that engage young people and validate their experiences, expertise, and solutions are essential to the delivery of effective change. A meaningful action cannot be achieved without the involvement of youth.

Peace Mbeiza, researcher and climate-change enthusiast.

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