Friday, February 19, 2010

Climate change has gripped all aspects of the world’s developmental agenda today. The issue has become so critical that world leaders hardly meet without deliberating on it. It has widely been publicized and accepted that the effects of climate change on mankind are inevitable. It has now posed as a vicious threat to the world’s survival or sustainability.

Climate change basically is changes in composition of the atmosphere, i.e., increased greenhouse gases and aerosols mostly caused by human activities. Human activities such as massive air pollution through the emission of Carbon dioxide (energy production and use – 80%) and deforestation or bad agricultural practices (agriculture and forestry – 20%) have contributed immensely to this phenomenon over the last few decades. Already, the effects of climate change are increasingly evident such as:
- higher sea levels (storm surges, hurricanes etc)
- more frequent extreme weather events (heat waves, floods, drought)
- reduced Arctic sea ice, retreating glaciers, melting ice sheets
- changing precipitation patterns
- warmer surface temperature (land, ocean etc)

This alarming situation prompted world leaders (both from developed and developing economies) to hew out some instruments such as the Montreal and Kiyoto Protocol under the watch of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that primarily is seeking to commit nations into reducing emissions of carbon dioxide significantly.

The Copenhagen conference held in December last year under the auspices of UNFCCC on climate change was envisioned to bury all differences and forge ahead with common goals. Indeed, some countries (especially from the developing countries) expressed their disappointment on the unwillingness of some developed countries to reduce carbon emissions at a significant rate. Whiles some strides were made at the conference, one may ask: was the event really successful?

Whiles our world leaders are conferring among themselves in combating climate change, the involvement of young people must not be overlooked. In any case, the dire consequences of climate change shall be experienced by the youthful generation either presently or in the near future – there’s no escape route – even in the light of mitigation and adaptation plans or strategies.
The youth possess strength, energy, talents, or resources that should be harnessed, nurtured and directed in the fight against climate change. Admittedly, some efforts have been made by a number of key institutions such as the World Bank Institute and British Council in training young people on climate change. Pockets of youth individuals and groups have emerged also enhancing and championing the climate change agenda. Though, these are welcomed and highly appreciable, more need to be done especially by governments of developing nations.

In Ghana forinstance, the government has engaged 25,383 young people in its Youth-in-Agric Business module of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) according to Ghana’s 2007 Annual Progress Report (APR). Though, this is a laudable approach in dealing with the mass unemployment problem among the youth, how are these young people educated on climate change so they do not perpetuate old agricultural practices that are detrimental to the environmental. Methane gas is emitted from agriculture which contributes to 20% of the greenhouse gases.

As a Certified Youth Master Trainer on Climate Change, I do recommend that governments actively involve young people through the process of:

a. Information – where young people are educated on climate change, that is, what it is; its effects; what causes/is causing it; methods of controlling it etc through a massive awareness drive.
b. Engagement – where young people are seen as key stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes on environmental issues including climate change.
c. Commissioning – where trained young people on climate change are launched out to engage their peers through peer-to-peer activities; youth clubs, organizations or associations; religious institutions; homes; societies; communities and so on

I must however acknowledge the following persons and institutions for given me the assurance of their support, assistance and technical commitment in my quest to embark on a national youth awareness campaign on climate change. They are as follows:

- Mr. Oppong Boadu [Environmental Protection Agency]
- Dr. Sekou Nkrumah[National Coordinator, National Youth Council]
- Mr. Estiba [Programmes Coordinator, National Youth Council]
- Dr. Omane Boamah [ Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology]
- Dr. Raymond Babanawo [Project Technical Assistant, Ghana Environmental Conventions Coordinating Authority]

Undoubtedly, engaging young people is a necessary effort in the fight against climate change as it will guarantee sustainability of any initiative and/or programme on climate change. As tomorrow’s leaders, they will be better armed and equipped with the skills, expertise, knowledge, or abilities to keep the effects of climate change under control.

Youth inclusion on the climate change agenda should be unreservedly promoted.