Promoting green growth by building youth capacity for UNFCCC negotiations

In Katowice – December 2018 Policy makers, influencers, innovators, business drivers, International organizations and observers from a wide range of sectors and across the globe gathered for the  24th Conference of Parties in Katowice. Among the participants was the delegation from Rwanda that include 3 young innovators from ‘Green Fighters’. Youth around different corners of the globe were in attendance to participate and make sure that their voices were heard in shaping the global dialogue on climate change. Youth are considered to have a unique stake in these discussions as they are considered the future and they will live the outcomes of this entire process.

At COP24, youth representation from Rwanda attended for the very first time! These three youth delegates were sponsored by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an organization dedicated to support its member government to achieve the commitments expressed under the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goal targets.

But what does it really mean for a young person to participate at such a colossal event with nearly 200 countries in attendance to the United Nations conference? Their main goal is to make recommendations, urge on delegates to track progress, organize and attend side events and build their networks. It was most evident that youth from other countries directly support country delegations in their negotiations as they lead several engagements at the Conference.

The Rwanda Ministry of Environment strongly supports and believes in youth engagement ,participation and can play a key role both in the intergovernmental climate change negotiations and in their communities – guiding all of us change the way we live and do business.

It was at this juncture that this environmental club “Green Fighters” approached the Office of the Rwanda Minister of Environment and expressed their request for an opportunity to join the climate change negotiations.

The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) with support from GGGI organized a Capacity building program, a package of theory and practice containing (i) a web-based course entitled: “Climate Change Diplomacy: Negotiating Effectively Under the UNFCCC”, organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. The course was for 8 weeks running from 10 Sept 2018 to 4 Nov 2018. This was the perfect timing to prepare for the COP24; (ii) attending the COP 24 in Katowice and join a group of Negotiators, in the field of Climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Green Fighters is a youth lead environmental Club actively engaged in the efforts to address climate change, leading and participating in various initiatives at the local, and sub-national levels. Their strong commitment to working on this issue has also motivated them to participate at international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At COP24, Rwanda Youth delegates met with the Minister of Environment – Dr Vincent Biruta who was leading the Rwanda delegation. They talked about expectations, received a briefing on the status of negotiations, encouraged them to go back as influencers and make an impact not only in their country but as global shapers. Dr Biruta elaborated to the Youth that becoming a negotiator does not happen overnight, that negotiation processes are not easy and that the UNFCCC negotiations are especially complex. However, he supported them in saying “if you get it right, you can go a long way”, and that is what the Ministry wishes. Together with partners, the Minister will continue to support the Youth. The Minister applauded GGGI’s unrelenting efforts to have supported Rwanda’s Youth through strengthening the capacity of the next generation of leaders in climate change.

Minister Biruta with the Rwandan youth from @GreenfighterRw and @YaleFES who have joined the #Rwanda delegation to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the #COP24 .

Rwanda’s youth delegates also had the opportunity to meet with GGGI team from Head Quarters among them GGGI Director General – Dr Frank Rijsberman to discuss training young people to be negotiators, the GGGI’s Greenpreneurship program and opportunities for future partnership and mentorship.

Rwanda‘s youth delegation from @GreenfighterRw at the #COP24 UN Climate Talks in Poland  met with Director General @FrankRijsberman from @gggi_hq, which supported the passionate environmentalists to attend the talks.

Meeting with Dr. Anna Schulz, Climate Diplomacy Specialist – who is supporting the LDC negotiators on transparency and runs a capacity building on climate diplomacy at GGGI –  was very insightful especially for the first-time participants at a Conference of Parties.

Attending UN climate negotiations for the first time is daunting, especially if it is a Conference of the Parties (COP) session. With so many meetings happening in parallel and using unfamiliar jargon and acronyms, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is notoriously complex”; said Dr. Anna.

Dr Anna Schulz, met with Dr. Brigitte Nyirambangutse from the GGGI Rwanda team and Rwandan youth delegates to build capacity and share knowlegde

Dr. Anna briefed the youth on what to expect from different meetings (formal meetings, informal meetings, coordination meetings, bilateral and especially LDCs meetings). Anna also recommended to attend other interesting events alongside the Negotiations (workshops, side events, press conferences, etc.). Anna was also impressed by what Rwanda is undertaking to empower Youth as Climate Negotiators; Rwanda is one of the few countries that has initiated a Youth program in Climate diplomacy. But there is a long way to go and a lot more to learn.

The three young delegates were guided to follow different schemes of negotiations events: adaptation, mitigation and finance groups.

Throughout the two weeks of negotiations, the youth delegation participated in different COP24 technical meetings and negotiation of parties related including:

  • Adaptation such as Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBI/SBSTA) further guidance in relation to adaptation section of decisions adopted by the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties (1/CP.21) mainly on the paragraph 41, 42 and 45, and on time frames of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) referred to in Article 4 paragraph 10 of the Paris Agreement, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) consultation on further guidance in relation to adaptation communication including, inter alia, as a component of nationally determined contributions, referred to in Article 7, paragraphs 10 and 11, of the Paris Agreement
  • Mitigation section of decision 1/CP.21 and on cooperative implementation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (Art 6.2, Art 6.4 and Art 6.8)
  • Climate finance – informal consultations on issues related to Adaptation Fund, APA agenda item 7: informal consultations on modalities and procedures for the effective operation of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance referred to in Art.15 , p. 2, of the PA, SBSTA informal consultations on modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 7, of the Paris Agreement, SBI informal consultations on matters relating to climate finance.
  • observe and listen to the results of the recent IPCC report of the 1.5-degree – An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty
  • A few side events focusing on low carbon and green technology development aiming at building climate resilience

Moreover, they had the opportunity to understand the key issue faced by both the African Group negotiators (AGN) and the least developed countries (LDCs) which can all be summarized in the lack of both technology transfer and the finance to implement either the adaptation or mitigation activities for the vulnerable communities already impacted by Climate Change.

Meeting with other Youth delegates from other countries was another milestone: Youth Negotiators from countries like Seychelles are part of the Youth Climate Lab. Green Fighters met with and attended events organized by The Youth Climate Lab – aiming to amplify climate action through intergenerational collaboration. Youth delegation also met with Ms Elizabeth Press from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an organization behind a youth initiative aiming at educating and engaging motivated youth on world’s most environmental challenges such as pressing global energy

 “We came to realize that the time of action is now, and we are the future generation with the ability to stabilize the effects of climate change, yet we still need to be recognized and given a seat at the table to decide the better solution for the current and future generations. Being aware that there is unity in youth from all over the globe ready to act for the best of their community is simply motivating to us, as we are not alone”, said Grace Ineza- Head of the Green Fighters.

The government of Rwanda is seeking ways to train more motivated young people in climate diplomacy and in partnership with GGGI Rwanda they were able to support this years first cohort. Although the youth participation in the UNFCCC has steadily grown in the last 5 years, it continues to suffer widely from uneven geographic distribution of origin of participants. For young people in developing countries climate change is one of the most important issues, yet many young people feel left behind in issues that affect and concerns their future. The government of Rwanda is optimistic that youth engagement in climate diplomacy can help shift the conversation and help establish inclusive, forward facing climate policy.  

COP 24 was expected to finalize and adopt the rulebook- which is the operating manual needed for when the global deal enters into force in 2020- for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. When Ministers concluded negotiations on Saturday night 15th December  after two weeks of tension-filled talks and 30 hours beyond the allocated time frame, a final deal on climate action at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland was to some extent achieved. The ‘Katowice Climate Package’ is the name given to the basket of issues that have been negotiated and agreed upon. Together this makes up the majority of the ‘rulebook’ by which the Paris Agreement can be implemented by countries around the world. Although some issues remained contentious, such as rules for carbon markets and trading, referred to under ‘Article 6’ of the Paris Agreement, these have been deferred until next year. The key elements that were agreed upon included how countries will both define and provide information on national climate action under the Paris Agreement, how to measure cumulative global efforts by 2023, as well as a process to mobilize financing to support this action.

The outcomes of COP24 are a remarkable accomplishment, given the scale of work negotiators were tasked with over these two weeks yet the work has just begun.  With this new ‘rulebook’ in place, it is now the responsibility of countries with support from organizations like the Global Green Growth Institute to turn their more ambitious climate pledges into concrete adaptation and mitigation action.  This will include revisiting their national climate ambitions by 2020 to meet the Paris Agreement goals.  This will require mobilizing political will, leadership and mostly finance for Least Developed Countries.

This event was co-sponsored in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, GGGI and IMELS (Italian Ministry for Environment , Land and Sea)