Leaders Unite to Empower Youth-Led Climate Action in Global Leadership Council Meeting
The Council rallied diverse global leaders to galvanize youth-led climate action amidst worsening climate crisis
New York—Global leaders from a diverse range of sectors including governments, businesses, foundations, multilateral organizations, civil society groups, and youth, came together in an event hosted by Generation Unlimited to foster cross-sector coalitions, generate investments, and urgently ramp up support for youth-led climate action.
The impact of the climate crisis is being felt all across the globe, with climate extremes already causing significant losses to nature and humanity. While young people are not responsible for the climate crisis, they cannot afford to wait for government and corporate leaders to act, and in many communities taking action now is a matter of survival. Young people are rising up to protect themselves and their communities, whether by acquiring green skills and pursuing green jobs, advocating for change, starting climate adaptation projects, or simply by taking an interest in addressing climate change.
Yet, youth climate movements still only receive a mere 0.76% of global climate philanthropic funding. There is a dire need for both private and public sectors to significantly increase their support and commitment to young people—to draw on their energy, creativity, and fresh perspectives, and empower them to shape the world’s collective response to the climate crisis.
Bob Moritz, Global Chairman of PwC and Co-Chair of the Global Leadership Council (GLC) opened the meeting by acknowledging the crucial role that young people play in advancing climate action and urged for ramping up support. “As catalysts of change, youth should have a seat at the table," said Moritz, underscoring the need to impart young people with green skills and empower them to drive meaningful change.
Young people play a critical role in shaping the climate agenda, according to UNICEF Executive Director and Co-Chair of the GLC Catherine Russell, who noted that "the global climate crisis is at its heart a child and youth rights crisis." Russell emphasized the necessity of action, especially in Africa, where an estimated two-thirds of young people are calling for bolder climate policies.
In a passionate address, Vanessa Nakate, the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a powerful voice in the fight against climate change, demanded that urgent action be taken to equip young people from all backgrounds with the necessary skills and resources to tackle the crisis.
“The climate crisis is more than weather; it’s more than statistics. It is a threat that is happening right now. It is robbing so many children of their present, but it’s also robbing them of their very survival,” said Nakate, whose stirring words called upon decision-makers and leaders to recognize the critical role that young people must play in shaping policies and driving change towards a more sustainable and just world.
“We need young people in the rooms where decisions about our planet are being made, because young people are not only on the front line of the climate crisis, but we are also on the front lines of the fight for climate justice,” Nakate said.
Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the UK, spoke passionately about the power of young people to determine the future and drive positive change. Brown spoke directly to young people, emphasizing their power to persuade governments to act and give the world hope. “Hope is not wishful thinking (…) it is the determination that we can change the world for the better,” Brown said.
With a call for collaboration and unity, Brown urged leaders to make COP28 a milestone for change and mobilize more support and resources. "Less talk. More action. You're the key to changing the world in the future," Brown concluded.
In another youth address, Vicky Aridi, a member of GenU's Young People’s Action Team, called on leaders to urgently support green youth-led climate action initiatives through concrete funding streams, while ensuring that inclusivity is at the heart. “At COP27 progress was made to move the needle, yet the clarion call for support for inclusive youth-led climate action through public private youth action still needs to be heeded,” Aridi said, urging for the integration of climate action modules in education curriculums and a greater focus on building young people's capacity for green entrepreneurship.”
Looking ahead to COP28, Rania Al Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, underscored the positive impact of youth participation at COP27 in Egypt, stating that it demonstrated what effective climate action could look like. She stressed the pivotal role of youth engagement in making sustainable practices and climate action the foundation of our collective future.
Tariq Al Gurg, the CEO and Vice Chairman of Dubai Cares, which is COP28’s exclusive Education Partner, stressed the importance of multisector partnerships, enabling ecosystems, and systems change that place youth at the forefront of climate action. Al Gurg noted that the RewirEd Summit at COP28 will bring together young leaders as changemakers for both people and planet, emphasizing the significance of investing in the next generation to drive a sustainable future.
The Green Rising: Mobilizing 10 million youth to take actions that protect their communities
UNICEF, Generation Unlimited, and our ecosystem of partners unveiled The Green Rising—an ambitious new initiative that will foster a global, grassroots mobilization of millions of young people to take concrete green actions to tackle the devastating impact that climate change is having on their communities. The Green Rising will support millions of young people in climate-affected areas to take meaningful actions to protect their communities from the impact of climate change by engaging in volunteerism, advocacy, and skills development, jobs, and entrepreneurship.
"The Green Rising will encourage a global movement of young people committed to creating a sustainable future," said Kevin Frey, CEO of Generation Unlimited, who underscored the critical role of youth in the battle against climate change. He further added that The Green Rising will serve as a platform for underserved youth to take positive action and encourage policymakers and business leaders to follow suit. Frey concluded that young people's advocacy will have an impact at all levels of society, from local school districts to high-level international conferences such as COP28 and the UN General Assembly.
At the Council meeting, members engaged in an action-oriented discussion centered around The Green Rising. They contributed ideas for jointly shaping The Green Rising's future while exchanging perspectives on their ongoing efforts to support and grow youth-led climate action. This dynamic exchange demonstrated how cross-sector cooperation can increase impact and spur significant change in the face of the climate crisis. Together, the participants built the framework for a powerful movement that will advance progress toward a sustainable and climate-resilient future leading to COP28 and beyond.
Uniting for Climate Resilience: Public-Private-Youth Partnerships for fostering sustainable development
In the spirit of partnership and collaboration for positive social change, the Council meeting saw exciting announcements made, showcasing existing initiatives and partnerships dedicated to supporting green skills, empowering youth-led climate action, and fostering sustainable development.
Per Heggenes, CEO of Ikea Foundation, spoke about the BeGreen Innovation Pilot, a partnership between Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ikea Foundation and GenU. The project aims to develop entrepreneurial skills in young people and build evidence to accelerate the shift to a greener and circular economy in Kenya. The partnership will fund an initial 120 Kenyan entrepreneurs in the green energy sector, with a focus on supporting female entrepreneurs. Tony Elumelu, founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, announced that the foundation, together with GenU and Ikea Foundation, will commit a total of 3.5 million USD to support the Be Green Project. He also announced that the foundation has 18,000 entrepreneurs across Africa, with over 4,000 businesses funded in the green energy sector, which will be crucial for the success of BeGreen.
Jurriaan Middelhoff, Ambassador for Youth, Education, and Employment of the Netherlands, announced that The Netherlands is partnering with the FMC Corporation of Kenya to support GenU's E-agribusiness initiative, which is aiming to train 4,000 young people as agripreneurs to support over 51,000 farmers in harnessing technology and sustainable farming practices.
Hassan Al Mulla, CEO of Silatech, spoke about Silatech’s ongoing support for 1Mio (GenU Brazil) towards youth employment, including green jobs in sectors such as renewable energy, waste management, ecotourism, and organic agriculture. Silatech also announced it is in discussions with GenU to collaborate on a regional initiative in the MENA region to link employment, economic empowerment, and climate action.
Heidi Strawson, Director of Global Giving Foundation at Accenture, announced the extension of their sustainability innovation challenge through a partnership with Junior Achievement and GenU for the imaGen Ventures program. The partnership will provide opportunities for 25,000 young innovators across 19 countries to tackle some of the toughest sustainability challenges while developing entrepreneurial and employability skills.
Finally, Mia Seppo, International Labor Organization Assistant Director General for Jobs & Social Protection, highlighted the Green Jobs for Youth Pact’s efforts to promote youth employment and green jobs. Seppo also announced that the ILO is hosting a flagship academy on youth employment, which includes a dedicated elective on green jobs for youth.
GLC members and young people recognize the urgency of acting on climate change and commit to ambitious climate efforts that place young people at the heart. In the coming months, GenU will work with partners to advance the priorities and opportunities discussed during the meeting. The Green Rising will be a key focus of this work, as we know that supporting grassroots youth climate action will be critical to ensuring that climate initiatives reflect the needs and priorities of communities.
With the diverse knowledge of young people, targeted and effective solutions can be developed to address climate change and social inclusion. Prioritizing equity, climate justice, and social inclusion is essential for building a sustainable world, and collaborating with youth for grassroots efforts can promote social and environmental justice, equal opportunities for a healthy planet, and intergenerational equity.