Unlocking Opportunities for a Youth-Powered Green Transition at the Global Leadership Council
The council, made up of a global public-private-youth alliance, convened to build coalitions and synergize efforts to position youth at the forefront of the green transition
NEW YORK, September 23 – On the sidelines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, GenU’s Global Leadership Council (GLC) yesterday convened leaders from governments, businesses, foundations, multilaterals, CSOs and youth from around the world to build coalitions, drive investments, and unlock opportunities for a youth-led transition into the green economy.
Co-hosted by Microsoft Philanthropies, the meeting between public, private, and youth partners saw dignitaries and young people putting their heads together to explore ways that young people can take the lead in moving towards a greener, more sustainable future.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and its effects are already being felt by the people and ecosystems of the world. The transition to an equitable and just green economy that leaves no one behind is imperative.
More than ever, the world needs today’s young people—the largest generation of youth in history—to be at the forefront of this green transition. With the right skills and opportunities, they can be uniquely placed to drive this change and ensure a bright and sustainable future for all.
Opening the session, Global Chairman of PwC and Co-Chair of the GLC, Bob Moritz, remarked that it is important to bring youth at the table as drivers of change, and not merely as beneficiaries, noting that youth skilling and social justice will be a necessary component to building a greener future.
“As we work towards a climate resilient, more sustainable future, the focus has to also include social justice. When properly planned and managed, and by working together to skill and reskill talent, the greening of economies will generate good jobs in dynamic, high-growth sectors.”
Moritz’s remarks were followed by a keynote address from Ilwad Elman, Director of Programs & Development at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center and GLC member, who made an impassioned plea to urgently ramp up investment, match resources to rhetoric, and support youth to lead the green transition.
“We need to think bigger, and we need to act quicker. By channeling the capacity and creativity of youth to lead the green transition and not discounting our potential to contribute to creative solutions, we can reach the climate change targets quicker,” said Elman.
“More young people are already taking up the torch of climate leadership. And they are already innovating climate action through education, science and technology. But we need to support them more (…) this can only be done by investing in bottom-up initiatives and giving youth space for political participation.”
In a powerful address, President of Botswana and GenU Leader, Mokgweetsi Masisi, noted that the demand for governments to provide opportunities for skills, empowerment, and jobs for young people requires that we pay attention to the climate crisis.
“The green transition is imperative for our young people”, President Masisi remarked, stating that investing in young people is “smart, sustainable, and profitable.”
“We need to ensure that among the skills young people in Africa get are leadership skills so that they can lead right—not only technical skills, but managerial, business and entrepreneurial skills.”
Prime Minister of Belgium and GenU Leader, Alexander De Croo, remarked that empowering young people with education, skills, and opportunities is the most important investment that the world can make right now.
“If you give opportunities to young population, they give all sorts of ideas. Investing in youth education is the only real investment that you can do where you know that the payback is going to be a long one. It’s crucial because it’s the right thing to do,” said De Croo. Addressing the young people in the meeting, De Croo asked for their help and inspiration to drive forward the green transition.
Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and GenU Leader, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete delivered a powerful speech noting that together with GenU, partners, and young people we can bend the arc of history on climate change.
“The threat of climate change is not a distant crisis. We're already in the eye of the storm. Quality education can equip young people with the knowledge to advance climate change mitigation, promote more sustainable ecosystem practices and develop skills to build green societies,” said Kikwete.
“If young people are provided with the right education, skills and opportunities to engage they could become a powerful engine to accelerate economic growth and social change to achieve sustainable development goals and enable the world to tackle major global challenges.”
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development of Canada and newly-appointed GLC member made a personal, inspiriting speech noting the urgency of the climate crisis and the need act now to protect our planet and ensure a safe and healthy future for young people
“Engaging youth as decision-makers and change-makers is the most effective way to develop great programs, and ensure lasting change,” said Sajjan, noting that to tackle climate change, we need to urgently invest resources into young people. “There’s so many opportunities out there. Every child on this planet has a gift to offer this world. I’m so confident that this generation can get it done where we could not.”
Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares and long-time supporter of GenU, highlighted the need for public-private-youth partnerships, stating that discussions from previous GLC meetings, especially around green skills, green jobs, and agripreneurship are directly feeding into the Transforming Education Summit—which is working to transform education in a rapidly changing world. The Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares also spoke of the need to synergize and align efforts between the climate curricula work of Transforming Education and GenU’s initiatives in green jobs, skills and agripreneurship.
Liesbet Steer, Executive Director of the Education Commission presented new, trailblazing research showing how the skills crisis is threatening progress on climate and demonstrating unequivocally that the green transition is both intimately linked with youth upskilling and contingent on it.
“Achieving net zero requires that we halve emissions each decade, and while technological innovations can accomplish the first reduction, achieving deeper change requires a generation of youth willing to change behavior,” said Steer. “We need to build a workforce that is ready for the green economy (…) we need individuals who are able to work collectively, think in systems, and have agency.”
On the heels of the powerful presentation delivered by Steer that linked youth education and skilling with climate resilience, Bill Winters, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered PLC was announced as the newest member to the Global Leadership Council. In a video address, Winters spoke of Standard Chartered’s initiatives to raise funds to support young people from low income households through community programs focused on education, employability, and entrepreneurship.
“I hope that through the leadership council, we will share learning on youth economic inclusion, so that [youth] will collaborate in innovative ways to achieve greater impact, and challenge ways of doing and thinking in the quest to never settle,” said Winters.
Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP announced a new commitment to expand and extend partnership between SAP, UNICEF and GenU to support learning to earning pathways in the digital and green economy for disadvantaged young people providing them with the skills they need to flourish.
“Together with UNICEF and GenU, our ongoing commitment underpins the urgency for innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship among young people worldwide,” said van der Ploeg. “By investing in skills development, we are creating a fairer world in which every young person has access to skills, education, and equal opportunities."
Later, GLC members and young people used practical sessions to discuss priorities and partnership opportunities. A number of solutions were profiled as entry points for broader Public-Private-Youth partnerships, including BeGreen Africa, Climate Pitch, Earth Tribe, the Global Volunteer Initiative, and YouthAdapt.
The group was able to come up with a number of items to be announced in the coming days that promise to ramp up global investments in solutions for youth skilling for the green transition.
GLC members and young people resoundingly shared the sentiment that the window of opportunity to act is limited, with leaders committing to be ambitious in their efforts. This means transitioning to renewable energy, investing in green infrastructure, and importantly, creating green jobs and empowering young people with the right skills to lead those jobs.
In the coming months, GenU will work with public, private and youth partners to advance the priorities and partnership opportunities discussed during the meeting. This will contribute to the implementation of GenU’s Strategy and the overall objective of reaching 300 million youth with skilling, employment, entrepreneurship and social impact opportunities by 2025 through Public-Private-Youth partnership.
About Generation Unlimited
Launched by the UN Secretary-General at the 2018 UN General Assembly, Generation Unlimited is the world's first Public-Private-Youth Partnership on a mission to skill and connect the world’s 1.8 billion young people to opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and social impact. Anchored in UNICEF, the partnership brings together global organizations and leaders including Heads of State, CEOs, Heads of UN agencies, and civil society champions with young people to co-create and deliver innovative solutions on a global scale.