A Youth-Centric approach to climate change

The UAE has long been at the forefront of climate initiatives, exemplified by being the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement, commit to economy-wide emission reductions and announce a ‘Net Zero by 2050’ strategic initiative. Furthermore, the Year of Sustainability in 2023 reflects a comprehensive strategy to address environmental challenges.

As COP28 concludes in the UAE, the country’s commitment to sustainability is becoming a focal point. Against this backdrop, the spotlight on education and youth is particularly noteworthy, as it becomes clear that the UAE’s approach aims to cultivate a generation deeply connected to the principles of environmental sustainability.

Source : Kamran Jebreili/AP

How is the UAE’s dedication to sustainability translating into tangible actions for educating and empowering the youth? 

Let’s explore 3 key initiatives that highlight the UAE’s foresight in integrating education as a tool in the fight against climate change.

1. Green Skills for Youth

Recognizing the significant youth demographic in the UAE with nearly 50% of the population aged between 15 to 35, the Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCY) observed International Youth Day (August 12), themed “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World.” Collaborating with public and private sectors, MCY established 14 youth-centric councils across key sectors, aiming to raise environmental awareness and develop skills in line with the UAE’s Green Agenda 2030.

The MCY organized events, including awareness workshops and youth circles, fostering discussions on crucial topics. His Excellency Salem Al Qassim, Minister of Culture and Youth, emphasized the UAE’s commitment to offering professional capacity-building opportunities, cultivating a generation contributing to the green economy:

The UAE’s leadership is committed to developing green skills among youth in all fields, with a special focus on the protection of the natural environment. The UAE aspires to offer professional capacity building opportunities to its youth to encourage them to contribute to the green economy, thereby creating a more sustainable global society. These events are aimed at harnessing the youth’s capabilities, providing them with a conducive environment to lead the nation’s progress on the path to a sustainable future.”

These youth councils are a clear dedication to youth voice and link directly to the strategic objective of the Ministry of Culture of Youth which states that ‘Investing in youth, empowering and involving them, installing confidence in the next generation to shape the future’ is one of their key pillars. Involving youth in this way is likely to only strengthen the UAE’s ability to inspire a nation that considers its youth as ‘its great asset’.

 

2. RewirEd Summit

The COP28 presidency, led by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, collaborated with Dubai Cares to organize a high-level session promoting climate education, titled “Rewiring Education for People and Planet: The road to COP28,” emphasizing the significance of education at the conference.

Source : Green Future

This summit brought together climate and education actors, united in their commitment to global education transformation as a potent solution for realizing climate ambitions and educational goals. The event’s core mission was to align diverse voices and sectors, fostering a collaborative environment that ensures agendas, commitments, and financing are interconnected.

UAE universities have witnessed increased activity related to COP28. Middlesex University Dubai, part of the Universities Climate Network, exemplifies this engagement, participating in sustainability events and co-hosting a Climate Law and Governance Day at COP28.

 

3. Greening Education Partnership at COP28

According to UNESCO’s GEM Report, 62% of countries lack specific national-level laws, policies, and strategies for climate change education. COP28 marked a historic emphasis on education, introducing the first-ever education pavilion, showcasing UNESCO’s efforts in getting learners and teachers climate-ready.

Source : News Source: Emirates News Agency

The Greening Education Hub, in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Education, featured over 200 sessions to promote concrete actions and solutions, with youth members actively participating in dialogues and shaping the way forward.

The objectives included mobilizing political commitment on greening education, sharing good practices on climate change education, generating opportunities for collaborative action on greening schools, curriculum, teacher capacities, and systems, and highlighting the impact of climate change displacement on the right to education.

The UAE’s commitment to sustainability and climate education emphasizes the essential role of youth in powering the shift to more sustainable, equitable, and climate-resilient societies. The appointment of H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui as the Youth Climate Champion during COP 28, a role created by the UAE on the foundations of the COP27 Youth Envoy, helped to bridge the gap between the COP Presidency and youth stakeholders, and amplify all voices under the age of 35.

 

Young people are experts in what works for them. Offering them a voice, a platform and education on the world stage at COP28 signals a shift – to listen better, to cooperate better, to make change together.

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