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‘Our Future, Our Voice’: What India’s Youth Want From COP15

As 196 countries chalk out a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) during the COP15 conference, there has been a sustained push for the inclusion of youth, women, and gender minorities in determining the targets to address biodiversity loss, and how they will be implemented

'Our Future, Our Voice': What India’s Youth Want From COP15
Young delegates believe creating more space for youth perspectives is essential to successfully conserving biodiversity

Montreal: How world leaders address climate change and biodiversity loss is closely tied to the future of the planet and of young people, yet their voices are not articulated properly in the decisions pertaining to issues that will likely affect them more than any other group. As 196 countries chalk out a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) during the COP15 conference here – a process that began at the UN Biodiversity Conference four years ago in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt – there has been a sustained push for the inclusion of youth, women, and gender minorities in determining the targets to address biodiversity loss, and how they will be implemented.

Also Read: Planet Does Not Need Your Money, But Lifestyle Change: Activist Sonam Wangchuk

In the Convention on Biological Diversity process, Parties have consulted with non-state actors such as the Women’s Caucus, International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), stated Basile van Havre, Co-Chair for the CBD’s Post-2020 Open Ended Working Group here.

A UNESCO “World in 2030” Survey Report published last year highlighted concerns of the youth over climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report shows that climate change and loss of biodiversity was by far the most-selected challenge, chosen by 67 per cent of the 15,000 respondents.

Young delegates believe creating more space for youth perspectives is essential to successfully conserving biodiversity, securing marginalised communities’ access to biodiversity, and their rights to benefit from the sustainable use of that biodiversity.

They maintain that an inclusive, rights-based approach is key to delivering sound public policy for generations to come as countries commit to conserving land and water resources and reversing biodiversity loss.

Youth delegate Shruthi Kottillil, who is part of GYBN says,

The rights of nature and humans are an integral aspect of nature conservation, especially in India where we have communities living close to protected areas and regions. Therefore explicit references to human and nature rights along with right-based approaches to conservation are critical for the proper implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at COP15.

Also Read: Sensitisation On Environmental Issues Needs To Be Imbibed Deeply At School Level: Sonam Wangchuk

“The Indian youth make up almost 30 per cent of our national population. It’s our future that is being discussed at the COP15,” says Pakhi Das, a youth delegate at COP15 and National Coordinator of the Indian Biodiversity Youth Network. Ms Das told PTI,

As well-informed, experienced stakeholders that represent a diversity of expertise and unique perspectives, it is very important our opinions are solicited and voices heard at all levels of governance.

Ms Das believes the youth not only have fresh ideas but also the capacity to innovate and simplify complex issues, which according to her, could go a long way in achieving the targets India is committing to. Ms Das added,

In the next COP, we don’t want to represent our members from the local, indigenous communities but we want them to come here and want to empower their voice.

Sudha Kottillil, Shruthi’s sister, is also a youth delegate attending the COP15 conference as part of GYBN. She says the Indian youth are demanding a transformative system-wide change at COP15. Ms Kottillil said,

A focus on — and explicit mention of — transformative education in the global biodiversity framework would help all governments to take note of it and start implementing to create that much-needed change that everyone wants.

Das, Kottillil, and their peers want governments to facilitate funding for youth to participate in future events linked to biodiversity – and to ensure that the GBF, once adopted in Montreal, is implemented by Parties in a participatory and inclusive way. “Implementation will be the next key step where concrete actions will need to be taken and it can’t be done without recognising the rights of nature and humans,” Shruthi told PTI.

Also Read: COP27 Climate Summit Missed Chance For Ambition On Fossil Fuels, Critics Say

“We have created a youth action plan for the implementation of the GBF once adopted and presented a draft version to the Indian delegates,” Ms Das added.

“Our ideas have been very well received and we are very optimistic that we will be able to work with the government soon,” she added.

In an effort to amplify young voices at COP15, Charlotte van’t Klooster, Scientific Advisor of Reserva: The Youth Land Trust, a US-based non-profit handed over 140 letters, written by young Indian children, to National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) Secretary, Justin Mohan, who’s one of the lead negotiators from the country.

One of the letters by six-year-old Anaya from Chennai reads:

Dear Grownups, Thank you for reading my thoughts. I learned that the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the safety of our soil are all dependent on Trees. Are they not our gift boxes from God?! Please do not unwrap them all. Please keep them for us. We like to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and live safely.

Another letter by Krishna, 11, reads:

As we drill down trees some of us weep. Some say this is the ugly truth but really……. we are the ugly truth.

“Children and young people have been sitting in their bedrooms and classrooms drawing and writing about their hopes for nature. Now we’re sending their message to governments here in Canada,” Callie Broaddus, Founder, and Director of Reserva said.

Also Read: G20 Leaders Struggling To Toughen Climate Goals, Draft Shows

Ragini Sarma, who is a part of a youth delegation in Montreal, wants world leaders to stick to the promises they are making in Montreal. Ms Sarma said,

As for world leaders, particularly India, I want them to address how they will incorporate indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in the 30X30 target, if the plan is to make 30 per cent of land protected, I would like them to assure that the indigenous rights of these lands are maintained and not displaced.

Ms Sarma hopes the parties will incorporate not just academic scientific knowledge behind each target, but also recognise the value of traditional knowledge of IPLCs.

“I hope for it to be as mainstream as scientific reporting is. Traditional knowledge is just as effective, if not more, to halt this rate of the large rate of species loss and ecosystem loss,” she added. The forest ecology student also wants businesses to report their impacts on biodiversity, which is currently noted in Target 15 of the draft text of the Framework.

“Businesses now are required to report on their sustainable footprints, but it is only mandatory for the climate. I want this to exist not just for climate, but for ecosystems and nature as well,” she added.

Of the many heated topics of discussion at the summit have been the regulation of gene drives, living modified organisms, and synthetic biology. Here too, young delegates want their voices heard.

Also Read: UN Chief Highlights India’s Contribution To Climate Action

As a young researcher attending COP15 representing the iGEM Foundation, a non-profit promoting synthetic biology, Shreya Kulkarni wants COP15 to open doors for more innovation and research in responsible Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology (SynBio), a set of concepts, approaches, and tools that enable the modification or creation of biological organisms. Ms Kulkarni said,

SynBio has the potential to bring in novel and creative solutions to urgent global problems like hunger, energy, and vector-borne diseases along with climate change, biodiversity loss, and conservation.

“I believe that responsible application of these new technologies can help restore our planet and conserve biodiversity,” she added.

“Definitely, we have been working alongside youth and giving them a voice, meeting with them here. I can see parties calling on the youth like they call on scientists and indigenous people,” notes Co-Chair van Havre.

Also Read: Minimum Progress On Mitigation, Climate Finance At COP27: Experts

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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