Organisation: Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) and Size of Wales
Project title: Youth Climate Change Ambassadors
Leader: Amber Demetrius
The Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA) is a group of young people from across Wales who are passionate Climate Activists fighting for Climate Justice.
WCIA and Size of Wales have been running joint MockCOPs (module United Nations climate conferences) for several years – these are a fantastic way for young people to develop understanding of climate change, develop their own perspectives, empathise with other views and negotiate solutions.
But we wanted to offer more to the young people who engaged. With some funding from the Scottish Power Foundation, we were able to offer the opportunity for all young people who took part in a MockCOP to apply to become Wales’ first Youth Climate Ambassadors. Once formed, it was core to the programme that WCIA and Size of Wales played an enabling role, but gave the ambassadors freedom to set their own agenda, recruit new members and run the group. It’s now been running for 2 years and the ambassadors engage politically, help to run new MockCOPs and support climate action across their communities.
They’ve met with the US Ambassador and presented at the UN in the course of their work. This year, the ambassadors have been heavily involved in Climate Cymru and will attend COP26 to represent young people in Wales.
In the original project formation, we were driven by young people and teachers telling us that young people care about climate change and want to know more. Once we identified the first ambassadors, they have taken the lead entirely. We’ve connected them to experts, politicians and networks, provided the infrastructure for them to meet, hold events and run public communications. Because many are under 18, we’ve also provided appropriate safeguarding.
Participation, inclusion and empowerment are core to all our work and this project was no exception. We use different platforms to make sure all young people involved can share their views and use their skills. The Youth Climate Ambassadors are in the driving seat and our role is to get obstacles out of the way and link them to opportunities.
The biggest challenge has been satisfying safeguarding requirements while also letting the young people lead meetings, social media and other initiatives. However, we are confident that we have resolved this challenge.
These range hugely from individual to individual but broadly-speaking, the benefits are:
Knowledge – of climate change and connected issues of social justice
Skills – public speaking, negotiation, problem solving, leadership, using initiative and inclusion are just some of the skills young people have developed through the programme
Self-confidence – developing and sharing their views
Empathy – understanding other perspectives and taking those on board when suggesting solutions
Networks – relationships with policy-makers, communities, other climate activists, NGOS and businesses
For our staff, but also the partners we’ve linked with the ambassadors, the perspectives of these young people have been extremely valuable, as well as the impetus they have put behind climate campaigning in Wales. We are in a climate emergency which will have impacts on us all and these young people are making a real difference to policy and practice in Wales and inspiring action further afield.
This is addressed in terms of the inclusion of people from across Wales and different backgrounds as climate ambassadors but also in the ambassador’s recognition of the links between climate change and social justice.
The project is still going strong and hope to continue into the future, with the ambassadors continuing to recruit more members and use their voices for change.
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