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My Experience at the 2023 Future Leaders Climate Summit

Updated: Mar 7

My experience as a Future Climate Leader was such an honor.

It was a humbling experience meeting 250 brilliant and committed climate activists and leaders from all over the world. The escalating effects of climate change have accelerated the level of uncertainty surrounding our future. Nevertheless, one undeniable truth emerges from this crisis: the responsibility of safeguarding the Earth for present and future generations falls on all of our shoulders, but especially today’s youth.

Throughout the events, the Future Leaders engaged in conversations regarding current climate challenges, as well as complex solutions that can effectively tackle these issues. As climate advocates, we must simultaneously consider economic growth, equity and justice for marginalized communities, healthier living environments, and flourishing ecosystems as essential facets of a comprehensive approach to confront this pressing global issue.

There are currently 1.8 billion individuals in the world between the ages of 18-24, the largest demographic of youth in recorded history. This group is incredibly cognizant of the challenges and risks posed by the climate crisis. They recognize the potential for achieving sustainable development through implementing solutions to climate change. While this generation may face most of the negative effects of climate change, we are also crucial agents of change, entrepreneurs, and innovators who will contribute significantly to climate action.

What I witnessed in early March was remarkable leadership and creativity in initiating climate action. From challenging the status quo and engaging in social activism policy advocacy, to organizing global strikes and launching innovative projects–there is no end to the solutions brought to the table. Through our educational pursuits, knowledge acquisition, scientific research, and technological advancements, young people will possess the power to drive significant change and create a more sustainable future.

Here are some key takeaways from the Summit.

Holistic Energy Justice is a Monumental Task

Energy justice is critical to empowering communities across the globe: Access to clean energy is essential for reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable development.

Moderated by Destini Smith from Catalyst Miami, the session stressed on the importance of energy justice in ensuring all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have access to safe and affordable energy sources that do not harm the environment or an individual's health.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as of 2021, two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions came from the energy sector, with fossil fuels serving as the primary contributor. For many people around the world, especially in developing countries, this existing energy system is unaffordable due to the high cost of energy generation, the lack of reliable and affordable energy services, and obsolete and inefficient infrastructure.

Current energy systems around the world are primarily sourced from dirty and harmful sources, often unaffordable.

For starters, energy poverty disproportionately affects marginalized communities, including Indigenous peoples, women, and low-income households, who often lack access to basic energy services. Thus, energy justice must be a priority, which means creating policies and programs that support the development of clean energy infrastructure, while ensuring that vulnerable communities are not left behind.

Energy justice also means holding corporations and governments accountable for their role in creating and perpetuating extractive and exploitative systems.

At the same time, communities that traditionally rely on fossil fuels for economic stability are greatly impacted by the renewable energy transition.

These communities have become increasingly vulnerable to changing demand patterns for traditional energy sources. To make sure these communities are not left behind, policies, such as retraining programs, income support, and job placement programs, need to be implemented to support them.

The business community can be encouraged to invest in renewables for local supply via tax credits, grants, and subsidies to encourage the installation of renewable energy infrastructure.

Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy is Multi-faceted

A low-carbon economy will require the transformation of current energy infrastructure, such as power plants, transmission lines, and storage facilities - the backbone of our energy system - to accommodate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

This transition will require a comprehensive approach that involves policy and regulatory changes, technological innovations, and financial incentives.

Elected governments will play a crucial role in implementing policies to incentivize the adoption of renewable energy sources and shift investment away from fossil fuels via carbon pricing, renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards. Businesses and consumers will make a difference by influencing corporate behavior and adopting energy efficient practices.

A workshop led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation featured a case study highlighting the significance and urgent need for retrofitting and reusing existing buildings as an effective means of mitigating carbon emissions that would otherwise result from demolition and new construction.

Expansion of Internet Access is Climate Justice

Access to affordable and stable internet will play a crucial role in forwarding climate goals.

As of 2020, more than 40% of the world does not have access to internet. Of the 60% that have access, there are significant disparities in internet access, with higher levels of access in wealthier and more developed regions.

Access to climate information via open access scientific reports and policy briefs, raising awareness about the impacts of climate via videos and podcasts, mobilizing individuals and communities via online activism and advocacy, sharing knowledge that can lead to the adoption of green technologies and innovations, and monitoring the ever-changing landscape and atmosphere in different regions via satellite imagery and remote sensors will require access to uninterruptible and affordable internet.

Governments, private sector companies, civil society organizations, and international organizations all have a shared responsibility to increase access to affordable and reliable internet and cancreate an enabling policy environment, invest in internet infrastructure, advocate for policies and practices that promote digital inclusion, and provide funds and technical assistance to support initiatives in developing countries.

Expansion of Internet Access is Climate Justice

On day two of the Summit, Climate Interactive presented their En-ROADS climate solutions simulator, providing fellows like me with an opportunity to actively engage with different policy scenarios and witness their effects on GHG emissions and global warming.

This interactive tool enabled us to explore, in real-time, the consequences of various policy choices, such as implementing carbon pricing, enhancing renewable energy production, and improving energy efficiency. The workshop and the En-ROADS simulator are invaluable resources for gaining a better understanding of the complexities of climate change and developing informed strategies for mitigating its effects.

It is crucial to understand that each country faces different climate risks, based on topography and weather conditions as well as the level of financial resources and technology they possess. This climate simulator is one of several exceptional tools that can help policymakers around the world to set long-term climate goals by modeling different scenarios and determining which policies can result in country-specific desired outcomes.

Attending the FLCS has equipped me with the knowledge and precision crucial to understanding the complex issues surrounding climate change and sustainability. As a Future Leader and a climate activist, I would like to share one message with you all:

“Our common objective should be to safeguard our ecological system, shift towards cleaner forms of energy, build resilient communities, and create healthy lifestyles to ensure our future generations are not disadvantaged and that they receive the same opportunities and resources that we have today.

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