Indian Youth on the track of the climate dialogue

By Nimesh Ved on Feb. 9, 2015 in Environment and Ecology

First of three stories on IYCN's Agent of Change project.

Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) organized a series of 2 day events at multiple locations to raise the awareness of the youth on climate change under its Agents of Change program with the objectives to: 

A.  Raise voices of the Indian youth on climate policy leading up to and at COP 20.
B.   Strengthen network to support the long term strategy of youth engagement in climate policy targeting COP 20 and 2015 climate agreement.
C.   Strengthen local chapters in selected urban areas to influence climate policy at the local, state and national level.

Supriya Singh, the president of the IYCN (Indian Youth Climate Network) was to lead a delegation to COP 20 at Lima in a few weeks. We sat on an early and endearing Shillong winter over cups of piping hot tea, during the workshop, and she talked of IYCNs remarkable journey - 2009 onwards. This was our first meeting and questions were easy to come by - Why so much focus on youth? What would be that one demand she would want to put forth at Lima? Supriya smiled at my interruptions and replied “Youth have the audacity to take up actions which most adults – for multiple reasons – cannot” and added “The leaders should act as if there is no tomorrow”. These for me brought out the crux of IYCN and its approach to climate. The focus on and belief in youth are pertinent in what is referred to as ‘the world’s youngest country’. In other words the importance of youth would be difficult to over emphasize.

IYCN believes that youth have the power to bring about change by virtue of their positive energies. It helps if they are better informed and IYCN looks forward to empowering them for the purpose. Both, raising awareness levels as well as providing relevant platforms to express their thoughts. Climate is the focus area with a belief that while the situation is complex and grim we can surely deal with it provided with we act with the zeal it warrants. Also that we cannot ignore ‘equity’ in climate dialogue, especially in a country like ours, for, with rising inequality we only increase our risk to climate change.

Shillong workshop, organized at the lovely North East Hill University (NEHU) campus, was one of the seven held as a part of IYCNs Agents of Change (AoC) programme. This series of two-day events has youth in different cities interact on climate issues with IYCN team members and other ‘experts’. Topics discussed include public transport, drinking water, waste disposal system and deforestation, and their impacts on our life and the environment.  Supriya shared of IYCN having facilitated delegations to select climate conferences during the past but this was the first instance of the efforts being scaled up and structured in this fashion. The revised approach had been far more effective. This had been made possible with financial support from the German Embassy and IYCN was keen to keep the momentum going.

IYCN’s chapters are spread across the country and signify active members in the region as opposed to a physical office. Shillong workshop saw the launch of its 20th chapter. Participants enthused by the discussions at the workshop agreed to join hands for taking up climate action through the chapter. A local MLA who was then present too committed his support. This chapter would cater not only to the city of Shillong but the entire seven sisters and one brother region or the north east India.  Its need and relevance are beyond doubt as this is a region which faces high vulnerability on account of climate change. On one hand the region regularly bears brunt of natural calamities like floods that warrant immediate attention. Recent years have unfortunately seen frequent occurrence of flash floods and cloud bursts as well. On the other there are issues, which bear political influences, like influx of refugees from neighbouring countries settling in forest areas and affecting them negatively.  It is the young people from the region who will need to highlight and address these issues for which the chapter can provide a robust platform.

Supriya talked about IYCN’s projects ranging from cleaning up lakes to waste management, from organizing youth summits to a road tour. Sensing her palpable excitement for the later, I sought to find out more. A young team travelled 3,500 kms from Delhi to Chennai on electric vehicles for the road tour. They had multiple agendas of documenting pertinent efforts as also spreading awareness as they meandered their way and it bestowed sufficient media attention on IYCN as well. A common thread across the projects was leveraging partnerships and generating synergies towards effective functioning at multiple levels. This would only help the network flourish.

Prasad, Supriya’s colleague in Hyderabad, is an inspiration by leading a low foot-print lifestyle in a city! He shared how the Hyderabad chapter invests in building relations with like-minded organizations and seeks to create platforms for the youth: awareness for the uninitiated and avenues for action for those interested. With one of them, Cerena Foundation, he had worked together to develop the ‘Carbon Foot-print Calculator’. As one of IYCN’s core team members Prasad’s area of expertise is training. Prasad also talked of the Eco Audit project that enables youth to get training from expert agencies to take up audits that assess the impact of environment and includes recommendations. One of the projects in the city, he said, had led to a well-known star hotel being able to reduce its electricity consumption and thus the monthly bill by approximately 20%. The hotel staff was initially skeptic and wondered on the utility of the exercise but at the end there were only glad that they had got Prasad and his young team on board.

We met again at New Delhi when Supriya and her colleagues shared findings of a perception survey on climate change and the position paper they were to present at COP 20. This was to seek inputs from civil society organizations and decision makers. Another round of tea with Supriya and given IYCNs interesting programs questions were still easy to come by; How would she want to take IYCN further? “Strengthen local chapters and enable them to be independent of Delhi, organize regular and frequent talks by experts for small and interesting gatherings and yes another road trip. This time from the east to west”. She was quick to get back.

Working with the youth is all the more pertinent today as the 2014 general elections have conveyed in no unclear terms. The new government rode to power with a clear wave of support from youth who proved they have the power and numbers to bring in the change. Climate change could be the next issue that youth could be united and positively geared to work for! Today, they could surely make the decision makers stand and take notice. Supriya and her colleagues at IYCN have a major role to play as catalysts in the days to come – to make climate change that issue for youth.

This story (from the author's blog) was written in the context of the Agents of Change project supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Thanks are due to IYCN, Supriya, GIZ, Tobias and Daniela.

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Story Tags: Climate Change, community, civil society initiative, innovation, youth

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