In a rapidly transforming world, the imperative of climate action demands more than technological innovation and policy reforms. It calls for a fundamental shift in our culture and education systems.
We stand at a pivotal juncture, with the energy transition poised to create 43 million jobs in renewable energy and 122 million in the broader energy transition workforce by 2050, according to latest research conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency. The vital question then is: are we equipping our youth, the leaders of tomorrow, with the necessary skills and knowledge to take on these roles effectively?
To answer this central question, it’s paramount that global platforms such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change provide opportunities to project the voices of youth on the energy transition dialogue.
At Cop28, we will find exactly this. For the Cop28 Presidency has vowed to place an unprecedented emphasis on the voices of youth and the role of education in preparing young people to lead the charge towards a greener, more sustainable future.
The introduction of a Green Education Pavilion, as well as a day dedicated to youth, children, education and skills, signals a shift in how we approach climate discussions at global forums. And with the involvement of the Youth Climate Champion, Shamma Al Mazrui, the voices of young people are not just heard but will echo across the chambers of the decision-making halls at Cop28.
Our youth are not just beneficiaries of climate action, they are its drivers. Their innovation, passion and leadership are crucial in navigating the challenges of a world on fire. It’s not just about creating job opportunities. It’s about shaping thought leaders, innovators and change-makers who can steward our planet responsibly.
Young minds from around the globe will converge to exchange knowledge, foster innovation and drive the energy transition.
On the road to Cop28 for youth, the upcoming Student Energy Summit – the world’s largest student-led conference on energy – provides a crucial touchpoint that provides a clarion call for global youth engagement in the energy transition and also sets the stage for student-led climate action.
This summit, which aligns with the vision of the Cop28 Presidency, serves to engage youth in the dialogue and decision-making process of the energy transition. Hosted by New York University Abu Dhabi, this summit represents a convergence of bright young minds, provides a fertile ground for collaborative innovation, and fosters a dynamic exchange of ideas.
The Student Energy Summit, alongside other initiatives such as the Taqa Youth Forum, Masdar’s Youth 4 Sustainability and Irena’s Energy Transition Education Network, symbolises a broader shift towards valuing and investing in the creative and strategic capacities of our younger generation.
In this vein, Irena’s Teaching for Net Zero campaign, which will be launched on December 5 at the Greening Education Hub during Cop28, will further highlight the importance of educating the educators for a sustainable energy future.
Beyond these summits and youth-focused initiatives, the recent adoption of the UAE-led, Irena-supported resolution by the Unesco Executive Board on “Strengthening the Role of Culture and Education for Climate Action and Resilience” fortifies the structural foundation for these initiatives.
This resolution is not merely a document, it’s a commitment by member states to intertwine climate action with education and culture. It emphasises building capacities through networks such as biosphere reserves and global geoparks, to enrich our knowledge, skills and values essential for addressing our greatest environmental challenges. It’s a stepping-stone towards creating a robust, informed workforce capable of driving the energy transition.
The UAE’s foresight in integrating culture and education into the climate conversation, as evidenced by the Unesco resolution, is a template for global action. The Greening Education Partnership, an initiative springing from this resolution, emphasises greening schools, transforming curriculums and enhancing teacher training. It’s about building an ecosystem where every learner is prepared to face and fight climate change.
From the moment the UAE was awarded the right to host Cop28, we knew that we had to go beyond just setting an agenda. We had to craft a vision for a future where youth-led initiatives are not just spotlighted but supported with the backing to succeed. If our approach towards climate change is to be truly holistic, it must encompass education, culture and the sciences.
As we approach Cop28, we should harness the vibrancy, ingenuity and courage of our youth, equipping them not just with the skills to undertake energy transition workforce jobs, but with a critical thinking mindset to shape a vision that can define our shared future.
The energy transition is not just a challenge, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity to rewire our societies, redefine our values and reimagine our future, with our youth leading the charge.
As we move forward, let’s remember that the involvement of youth in climate action isn’t just beneficial, it’s indispensable.
With each conference, summit and educational initiative, we’re not just preparing our youth for future jobs; we’re entrusting them with the stewardship of our planet. Their energy, creativity and vision are the catalysts for a sustainable, resilient future.
At Cop28 and beyond, let’s commit to not just including but prioritising the voices and ideas of our young leaders. Their participation today shapes our world tomorrow.
Dr Nawal Al-Hosany is the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Beniamin Strzelecki is the co-chair of the 2023 Student Energy Summit