As the world observes International Youth Day on August 12th, young climate advocates are gearing up to send a powerful message to global leaders at an upcoming UN summit: it’s time to take concrete and ambitious climate action to drive sustainable change and equip younger generations with the essential “green skills” needed for a resilient future.
The 2023 edition of International Youth Day focuses on highlighting the pivotal role of green skills and the significant contribution young people can make in accelerating the transition towards an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly world. These green skills encompass technical expertise and knowledge required for effective utilization of eco-friendly technologies and processes within workplaces, as well as transversal skills that draw on a wide spectrum of values, attitudes, and knowledge to promote environmentally conscious decisions in both personal and professional life.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the urgency of this endeavor, stating, “From innovative sustainable technologies and renewable energy, to revolutions in transportation systems and industrial activity, young people must be equipped with skills and knowledge to shape a cleaner, greener, more climate resilient future.”
To gain insights into the critical green skills necessary for forging a sustainable future, UN News engaged in a conversation with the young climate advisors of Secretary-General Guterres. The Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change comprises seven individuals from diverse backgrounds, all driven by a common aspiration to create positive change on a global scale.
Among these voices is Saoirse Exton from Ireland, who became a climate justice activist at just 13 years old. Inspired by the activism of her Australian peers, she initiated climate protests and founded the Fridays for Future movement. Saoirse, who also possesses a keen interest in economics, stresses the importance of critically assessing and challenging existing systems. She advocates for rethinking classical economic structures, embracing a hopeful outlook while maintaining a critical stance.
“For example, economics, [is] a very big issue because there are a lot of people who are not interested to change our economic system. I think it is worth considering the negative aspects and the negative effects of classical economic systems, at least being critical of them. Maintaining a healthy critical attitude while also being fully aware that change is possible [is a good “green skill”]. So, it’s like optimism combined with criticism,” Saoirse shared.
Beniamin Strzelecki from Poland, a fervent advocate for climate action and energy transition, underscores the vital role of quantitative reasoning in the transition to cleaner energy systems. He emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing claims made by organizations, companies, and governments and assessing their tangible impact through data-driven analysis. As industries grapple with the challenge of “greenwashing,” or superficially promoting eco-friendly initiatives without meaningful action, Beniamin asserts the significance of numeracy and critical evaluation.
“I think that young people need to be able to see through the words and look at the numbers and question the meaning of these campaigns we keep hearing about. This is why the grasp of the numbers and quantitative reasoning are so important in the era where the risk of greenwashing is greater than ever,” Beniamin emphasized.
These passionate young climate advocates are poised to amplify their voices at the upcoming Climate Ambition Summit in New York in September, urging world leaders to heed their call for transformative climate action and the cultivation of vital green skills that will shape a sustainable future.