15 Minutes on Youth and Climate Change

Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi: 00:01

Hello, and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World. Where in 15 minutes, you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it.

My name is Lama Alsafi host of this podcast. In 2018 Greta Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Greta’s speech and continuing actions since have helped to breathe new life into the climate change movement and open its doors to younger generations who are helping to challenge systems around the world. The effects of climate change continue to intensify. Climate change is driving humanitarian emergencies, forced migration, violence, conflict, and health, and gender inequality in the world’s poorest communities, it’s women and girls who bear the brunt of these consequences.

In this episode of 15 Minutes to Change the World we’re speaking with Dominique Souris and Ana González Guerrero co-founders of the Youth Climate Lab, an organization that partners with and empowers youth in designing projects to tackle climate change. Dominique and Ana join us remotely from Ottawa today. Welcome, and thank you so much for chatting with us today.

Ana González Guerrero: 01:35

Thank you.

Dominique Souris: 01:36

Thanks for having us.

Lama Alsafi: 01:38

Dominique and Ana, can you tell us a bit more about your backgrounds and how did your passion around climate change start?

Ana González Guerrero: 01:44

My name is Ana González and I am one of the two co-founders of the line and my background is actually pretty related to kind of what you were introducing in terms of really noticing the disproportionate effects of climate change to vulnerable populations and how that was impacting my community. So I was born and raised in Mexico and spend some of my pivotal teen years in Cancún, which as some of you may know, is a coastal community. After a hurricane, things started to click for me. I selfishly used to play volleyball on the beach and then saw it disappear. So again, as a, as a kind of 15-year-old girl, I was like, why, why can’t I play volleyball anymore? So I started looking into it and realized that that it was a big, big problem called climate change and that it was going to be not only affecting my very privileged access to a volleyball court, but how people recovered in my community and how they were dealing with the impacts of climate change. I started volunteering with the municipality in Cancún to participate in more environmental education aspects. And then that led me to come to Canada to study environmental business at the university of Waterloo, which is where I met Dominique then really started working with communities and cities as kind of the key players and actors, not only at the front lines of the effects of climate, but also in the response.

Dominique Souris: 03:04

So I’m born and raised in Ottawa. And for me, I’ve always had a passion to help people, but really a curiosity around how international decision making works. And so from high school and then university really just curious around international climate decision making and the role of young people. I was very fortunate to be part of a student delegation to go to the United Nations Climate Negotiations in 2013, I was an early undergrad. And, uh, for me that was the first time I saw this sort of really hectic UN climate system, but also the incredible young people who were trying to participate in who were basically left out of decisions. And so it was really there that I got really interested around, how can we elevate the role of youth in these complex international systems and really to try to influence and change them.

Lama Alsafi: 03:52

And you’re both co-founders of the Youth Climate Lab. Is this sort of how this organization came to be you meeting in, in school and going from there?

Dominique Souris: 04:00

Yeah, exactly. Honestly, we were quite frustrated. I think we both saw gaps in the respective spaces that we were working in really around how youth voices were ignored, tokenized and continue to be seen as more cute than impactful. And we were excited with what we could bring to the world by supporting innovative use around the globe to tackle these gaps. Honestly it came at a place of frustration and leaning in both our strengths and interests to, to create something that could support youth all around the globe, who wanted to make a difference.

Lama Alsafi: 04:32

Not everyone may be aware that women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change. Why do you think the impact on women and girls is so different?

Ana González Guerrero: 04:40

That’s definitely something that I think is getting a lot more traction in terms of recognizing that yeah, traditionally women’s roles are as primary users and managers of f ood supplies, natural resources, caregivers. And this inevitably means that when there are impacts of climate change, that exacerbate kind of aspects that make it difficult for them to access these services that they are usually providing, it impacts them directly. Climate change also is known to intensify violence, conflict, security, and other really huge concerns that women have carried the burden of, uh, in the past. So I think that’s the way that they’ve, that they are disproportionately affected by climate change. But I think also something worth mentioning we’re now recognizing that women and girls are also an integral part of the solution. By empowering women and girls we’re not only protecting them from the challenges of climate change, but finding solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. So really a win, win that starts with human rights and just evening in the playing field.

Lama Alsafi: 05:40

Your organization, Youth Climate Lab, particularly targets people under 30. So why do you think this group is such an important partner in driving action on climate change?

Dominique Souris: 05:49

Well, I think it’s simple young people today, especially those on the front lines have the most at stake and the most to gain when it comes to fighting climate action. So Youth Climate Lab focuses on supporting youth to create and support climate solutions because as a generation youth are the most impacted by climate change. But we also know that there’s some of the most collaborative inter-sectional and innovative problem solvers that create the solutions that we need. So I feel that it’s both a moral and a practical reason that we focus on youth. Again, we mentioned, you know, we were frustrated with a lack of meaningful use engagement, which is why we created Youth Climate Lab. And it’s really critical to remember that decisions made today are impacting our future and future generations. And so not seeing youth as partners to solve this is a total missed opportunity and even a moral mishap. And that’s why we really focus on, on elevating the role of youth, not only as a constituency to consult with, but really as partners for climate action.

Lama Alsafi: 06:47

In your work are you finding that people under 30 are more aware of issues related to climate change or are there certain challenges that come to communicating with this group around these issues?

Dominique Souris: 06:59

I think in the work that we do, we definitely see that that young people are the most aware and, uh, really well versed in climate change and climate impacts. I think it can get a little complex when we talk about how international climate decision making happens and the very complex bodies of the UN and the technical negotiations that take place. And so for that, there is important work to be done around leveling the playing field for youth to be able to speak that technical and political language to then really drive action at that level. But I’d say across the board, in what we see, we really recognize that that young people are, are the most engaged and passionate to, to tackle climate change and really are committed to go above and beyond to learn more about it, to figure out how they can be involved and relate to it, to take action.

Lama Alsafi: 07:45

I wonder if you can tell us about some of the successes you’ve seen from your projects, um, you know, around creating this, this dialogue and what kind of inspiration can these successes bring to the future of the climate change movement?

Ana González Guerrero: 07:57

This is actually really exciting for Youth Climate Lab lab we’re entering our birthday month. So we’re releasing a report on the last three years of our work, kind of what we’ve done, what we’ve heard and what we’ve learned. And then we’re tying that into where we want to go for the next three years. So a presentation of our strategic objectives and where we really see some shifts needing to happen in the next few years for climate action. But we’ve designed, we’ve piloted and we’re trying to scale close to 15 projects over the last three years, ranging from an online virtual accelerator that support screen startup, particularly in the Global South to future exchange. This was a program that was aiming to bring youth from Canada’s North and South to kind of translate traditional knowledge and policy knowledge into concrete climate action. In the numbers we’ve directly related to thousands of young people across all provinces and territories in Canada and over 40 countries through different labs. And what these labs do is really trying to get young people jamming on solutions to climate action by using design thinking processes, but also ensuring that their insights are being heard and used in national and international forums.

For this type of work we’ve worked with the partners like Global Affairs Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada, but also at the international scale with a Connects with Climate, which is a global partnership under the World Bank and big forums, like the Youth Climate Action Summit that took place before the United Nations Secretary General Summit last year and at COP in the past. So overall I think that we’re not only trying to build future climate decision makers, but we’re trying to ensure that their voices are being heard right now. And that to me is particularly inspiring. Um, while we’re also providing them with the tools and resources that they need to be taking action at their communities right now. I think something that we hear often is this level of urgency, and we can’t just wait for, for what the next 10 are going to come like the next 10 years are gonna agree, but we really need to start taking action right now. And that’s, that’s kind of the source of inspiration for a lot of our work and our continued work to really be, be mobilizing young people in that way.

Dominique Souris: 10:03

I think Youth Climate Lab, we see ourselves as designers, as facilitators as conveners. And so, you know, like Ana mentioned, a few of our projects include bringing youth together at international events and, and fostering a creative space for them to understand the decision making system and cocreate policy recommendations. So we’ve seen some cool opportunities where, for example, at the, at the UN Youth Climate Summit in September, we hosted a policy jam, uh, in partnership with the World Banks Connect4Climate. And, you know, we had a hundred plus young people from all around the world, jamming, on how to make climate finance, more youth inclusive. And then we brought those recommendations to the high level dialogue on financing, which just took place later that week at the UN. So that ministers looking on finance and sustainable development, we’re able to hear the youth insights and recommendations on pretty technical topic around financing. Those are cool insights and lessons that we really focus on as we plan our, the labs and the next level of programming that we do.

Lama Alsafi: 11:06

Can you give us an example of one of these kinds of policy recommendations, climate financing or otherwise?

Dominique Souris: 11:10

So one example is the, the idea of creating new financial mechanisms that are youth focused and youth led another one would be creating a youth based analysis that could compliment, for example, gender based analysis, to really focus on the obligations and considerations of finance deployment on youth. So that would be like a policy tool that came out of, of our work on this topic, other ideas were a UN back secretariat to help youth led initiative, access tools and resources to learn more about financing and to build their own financial literacy at the organizational level so that they are able to access bigger funds. A lot of different ideas came out of it.

Lama Alsafi: 11:51

How can someone who’s listening home right now or in their car? How can they take action? How can they participate in the fight against climate change?

Dominique Souris: 11:58

Such a great question. I think in a time of COVID-19 it could be really daunting to think very far ahead, but it’s really important. It’s important to think about our role in fighting climate change. It’s worth mentioning that the temporary drop in admissions due to COVID through this pause that we’re on right now is not something to celebrate, but instead it’s a moment for us to use this time to reimagine our relationship to earth, to food, to each other, and to start thinking about what we can do as individuals at home. So, I mean, that includes, of course, eating local, reducing your meat consumption, but also what we can do as individuals beyond the home. Some things I would highlight is look to support and financially support youth led and community work focused on climate action, use your voice and demand, climate action to your representatives in government, especially as, as the health crisis lessons and we’ll work on the recovery, you know, it’s really important for us to demand and to ensure that COVID recovery happens with a climate lens to it. You know, I think that underscores that, that larger, important role for us all during elections to vote and really to youth climate in mind and making sure that those who we vote in have legit climate plans.

Ana González Guerrero: 13:13

And maybe I’ll add for any, as we lovingly call youth talk listeners to recognize and use your access to, to support youth led efforts. Um, kind of looping back to what we said earlier, really bringing young people as allies and partners and solutions and the decisionmaking and really listening to our voices right now, um, as within your capabilities and access in whatever work that you’re doing.

Lama Alsafi: 13:44

Well, thank you so much Dominique and Ana, for taking the time to speak with us today.

Ana González Guerrero: 13:48

Thank you.

Dominique Souris: 13:49

Thanks for having us.

Lama Alsafi: 13:50

Thank you and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. Stay tuned to our most recent episode of 15 Minutes to Change the World on Spotify and iTunes.