In collaboration with the Malaysia Pavilion, the Malaysian Youth Delegation organised a Youth Forum entitled ‘The Importance of Youth Involvement in Climate Change Negotiations’. The purpose of the forum was to provide a platform in exchanging ideas and experience between Global North and Global South countries on how climate actions are operated back in their respective homes. The event was a bit special because it was the first of such a youth-led initiative held at the Malaysia Pavilion (only the 2nd one we’ve had at COP) and that is a mighty fine statement reflecting that the Malaysian government is willing and open to engage with MYD, or youths, in general. What made the forum a little bit special too was the fact that it was organised in conjunction with Youth and Future Generations (YFG) Day, which was a day to celebrate youth power and participation in UN climate change conferences.

Moderator and panellist for the Youth forum. From left to right; Syaqil (Malaysia), Lhavanya (Malaysia), Saffran (Sri Lanka), Mona (Germany), Sara (Sweden), Lagi (Fiji)

From left to right: Syaqil (Moderator, Malaysia), Lhavanya (MYD, Malaysia), Saffran (EarthLanka, Sri Lanka), Mona (CliMates, Germany), Sara (PUSH, Sweden) and Lagi (Project Survival Pacific, Fiji)

To reiterate the whole spirit of ‘Talanoa’ or togetherness, our invited panellists hailed collectively from the Global South and Global North, in the form of Fiji, Germany, Sri Lanka and Sweden, besides Malaysia of course. The forum was such that panellists had to answer 3 questions, each on the following topic:

  1. Tell us how in your country youths are playing a role in climate action?
  2. What is your view on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities?
  3. How can youths support national climate change initiatives?

Given the privilege to moderate such a session, I had the opportunity to listen to views shared by our international youth panellists hence for this article, I shall add my perspective on addressing these questions on top of recalling the points delivered by the speakers:

  • How youths from your country are playing a role in climate action

First off, an annual competition called the Toyota Eco Youth Awards was held whereby secondary schools from all over Malaysia designed and presented on eco-friendly projects that would help making their community live more sustainably. The simple yet innovative projects range from constructing household items from recyclable materials, to awareness campaigns aimed at changing people’s behaviour so that, for instance, they don’t dispose their used cooking oil down the sink. University students take the lead in climate change initiatives too. For example, the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus holds an annual Earth Hour celebration where all sorts of electrical appliances on campus are switched off for an hour, on top of having the commemorative candle walk around the University. As for Lagi of Fiji, he says that youths in Pacific islands in general are proactive in organizing grassroots activities as they are fully aware of the brunt they could be suffering as a result of climate change – losing their homes as a result of rising sea levels.

  • Your view on the Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR)

My view on CBDR is that all youths’ view on this should be the same and it’s nice to know that two of the panellists from the Global North, Sara (Sweden) and Mona (Germany), think the same! Unfortunately, that’s not the case amongst the decision makers. Where developing countries are upholding the principle, developed countries tend to overlook it which inevitably leads to a clash in negotiations. According to Sara however, that is not the case amongst the Swedish decision-makers as they are upholding this principle when making their stance in negotiations as well as implementing this in their own national policy. Having said that, MYD’s very own Lhavanya made a good point in that the Global South should make it incumbent upon themselves to fulfil their own. CO2 emissions intensity cut regardless of obtaining enough technology transfer and financial assistance from the developed Global North nations. Mona says that the principle of CBDR shouldn’t even be an issue between developed and developing countries which just goes to show how unified youths are in having the same viewpoint to uphold this principle.

Full House in Malaysian Pavillion

  • How youths can support national climate change initiatives

For one, I believe it is a great sign of intent for governments to be inclusive when they open up official platforms and channels for discussion in order to make inclusive and participatory decisions, and in my opinion, this is reflected by the ‘Transformasi Nasional 2050’ initiative. Having attended one of the dialogues organized by TN50, I was impressed at how the session was designed to collect sentiments on how Malaysians, from all walks of life, want the country to be in around 30 years’ time. According to Saffran, there exists a Youth Council on the Environment back in his home country, Sri Lanka, for youths to input their views when it comes to policy and decision making. In Sweden, Sara says that youth are engaged in a lot of grassroots initiatives too where the government is aware and in support of.

Looking forward, what I hope to gain from our Youth Forum as a result of a synthesis of ideas is for MYD to maintain the relationships built during the session. To me, it was pivotal and invaluable to have had the opportunity to learn from international youth NGOs on how they operate, the struggles they face back at home with regards to climate change as well as on an operational basis, and how they’re engaging with their government. With the lessons learnt, the Malaysian Youth Delegation can look back upon ourselves and further improve upon the gaps and shortcomings that we still possess.

Group picture with the Deputy Secretary General of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

Written by Syaqil

Edited by Varun