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Letter-to-the-Editor: Empowering Youth through Municipal Climate Advisory Committees

Empowering Youth through Municipal Climate Advisory Committees
Courtesy: Elmar Gubisch / @elmar-gubisch

To the Editor,

In the evolving landscape of climate policy, it is imperative that we recognize and harness the potential of young voices in shaping our environmental future. New York State's General Municipal Law under Article 12-F, Section 239x, stands as a beacon of progress in this endeavor. This provision allows municipal governments to establish citizen climate advisory committees, importantly including at least two youth members aged 16 or older.

The significance of this inclusion cannot be overstated. Young individuals are disproportionately affected by climate change, yet they are often excluded from the policy discussions that determine their future. By mandating their inclusion, New York not only acknowledges the impact of climate change on youth but also empowers them to be part of the solution.

This legislative framework intersects powerfully with the global Fridays for Future movement, famously ignited by Greta Thunberg. Thunberg’s unwavering advocacy for youth involvement in climate discussions resonates deeply with the objectives of Section 239x. Her call to action for climate equity and youth representation is echoed in New York's legal structure, which now formally invites young people to the decision-making table.

It is crucial that local governments across New York take proactive steps to implement these advisory committees, ensuring that they are not merely symbolic but effective forums where youth can contribute meaningfully. Municipalities should engage with local schools and youth organizations to recruit knowledgeable and passionate young

members who can bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. Also, this is a great opportunity for youth participation in climate civics, especially for municipalities that are home to school districts with AP environmental science courses or student environmental clubs.

As Greta Thunberg and countless young activists continue to fight for their future, New York’s inclusion of youth in climate policy committees is a model of legislative support for youth advocacy in climate policy discussions. It is a call to action for other states and countries to follow suit, ensuring that the voices of those who will inherit this planet are not just heard but are instrumental in shaping the policies that will define our collective environmental legacy.


Paul Presendieu

New Rochelle, New York

Board Secretary, New York State Association of Conservation Commissions



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