Zimbabwe: Youth Urge World Leaders to Adopt Climate Treaty

1 December 2020

At least 300 youths drawn from 140 countries, including from Africa, have penned an open letter calling on world leaders to implement a set of realistic, progressive, youth-centered climate policies.

Delegates at MockCOP26, an international youth-led climate conference, have since presented the Treaty to Nigel Topping, the High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, urging national governments around the World to raise ambition and action in the run up to COP26.

In a press statement, youths said the policy recommendations, developed over the past two weeks of negotiations, cover six themes: climate education, climate justice, health and wellbeing, climate resilient communities, national carbon reduction targets and protecting biodiversity.

Youths are calling for governments' commitment to limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, ban offshoring of emissions, adoption of strong regulation on air quality, and promote significant emission reduction.

"In the Treaty, Mock COP26 delegates are calling on governments to include policy measures to assist farmers to move away from practices that are harmful to soils, water and biodiversity and that fuel deforestation. Delegates also called for a far-reaching law on ecocide to criminalize the mass destruction and damage of the environment by human activity.

"The Treaty includes an ask for national governments to ensure that substantive education on climate change is available to young people at every level of formal education, based on the best available science.

"In addition to this, delegates are calling on countries to protect the rights of young climate activists and include young people in decision-making matters relating to the climate emergency and ecological crisis, including sending more youth representatives to COP26," reads part of the statement.

James Thornton, chief executive officer and founder of ClientEarth, one of the lead organizers of the MockCOP26 said the powerful statement by youth calls for protection of the environment for future generations.

"The youth behind Mock COP26 have created a powerful statement calling on governments to take action to protect future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. Decisions taken by governments now will affect the youngest generation for many years to come.

"Now is the time to listen to young people and implement their urgent demands," says Thornton.

Rufaro Matsika climate researcher with Advocates for Earth-a non-profit, public interest environmental law, climate and wildlife justice organization for the Global South, represented the voice of Africa.

Matsika said their input related to transfer of wealth for the Global South to extricate herself from the climate crisis, where impact of climate change is disproportionate, despite minimal contributions to causes.

"As a Youth from the Global South, attending the MockCop offered a great opportunity to raise Climate change issues in Zimbabwe and global south and be able to negotiate on policies we need to be crafted in order to achieve Climate Justice and a Just Transition.

"The main concern we had as global south countries were issues pertaining to climate justice where we emphasized the need for transfer of wealth from Global North countries mostly responsible for the climate crisis to the Global south who are least responsible and mostly vulnerable and have little capacity to adapt.

"In as much as we want to move away from fossil fuels we cannot afford to make the abrupt transition without financial assistance, we were there as Zimbabwean delegates raising our voices so that global leaders can hear our plea," she said.

Youths also negotiated on the need to streamline Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) plans to spell out specific country actions on interim targets, carbon trading, GHG inventories, carbon sinks, and carbon pricing especially on those highly contributing to GHG emissions.

Mock COP26 is coordinated by a group of young climate activists from across the globe, mostly from the Fridays for the Future International Committee, united in their frustration at the speed of progress from world leaders on combating climate change and its effects.

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