Students & Campus
11 October 2021

When Youth Gather for Climate Change

Iida Lehto, master candidate in Development Studies (MDEV), specialising in Environment, Resources and Sustainability, participated in Youth4Climate, a pre-Conference of the Parties (COP) youth event from 28-30 September 2021, which gathered hundreds of young climate leaders from all around the world. In an interview, she discusses her role in the event and the importance of her work.  

Could you explain in what capacity you were participating in the Youth4Climate Summit?

I attended the conference as a youth delegate to represent Finland. Together with a small working group from the ‘Non-State Actors’ Engagement’ workstream, I helped draft a climate agenda for sustainable food systems, which will be presented to the ministers attending COP26 in Glasgow in a month’s time.

Why was this important for you?

There is an urgent need for world leaders to implement drastic climate action at the international level. In the face of large structural changes, our ability to contribute to climate justice as young individuals can feel powerless. Youth4Climate was the first ever conference to bring together almost 400 young activists from nearly 190 countries, and provide the space and resources to develop and directly voice our opinions to the leaders. I’m incredibly thankful for the unique experience to meet so many inspiring youth leaders - there is something very powerful in our collective experience!  

Did your studies help you in your role at this event?

Yes, definitely! I’m an MDEV student, specialising in Environment, Resources and Sustainability. Through some of my classes, I became very interested in food and agrarian systems, and I applied specifically to the food systems working group at the conference. It was important for me to have a background knowledge of the key debates and understanding of certain terminology to better formulate critical thoughts on the matter of global food systems. I was able to emphasise some of the findings from my course essays on agroecology, water security, and food sovereignty, and include them in our working draft.  

How did you find out about this opportunity?

I actually found out about the opportunity to apply for the conference back in February 2021 through a recommendation from the GISA Environmental Committee where I have been an active member for the past year. 

What were the outcomes? 

The last day of our conference was also the first day of the official pre-COP, which provided an opportunity for us to present our key suggestions to the president of COP26 and ministers attending pre-COP. Now, we are finalising our drafts, which will be sent to the ministers on October 25th. The drafts have strong and concrete suggestions - it is now up to the ministers to take them into consideration. It will be interesting to see whether our suggestions will be reflected in the outcomes of COP26.  

What takeaways do you have from the event?

There is a lot of power in young people coming together to call for action from world leaders. I hope Youth4Climate will be the first of its kind, with many more similar conferences organised again in the future. Young people will live the longest with the decisions made today, so their voices deserve to be heard and taken into consideration.