A few days ago, the UN Secretary-General convened a critical press conference to declare that we’ve entered an “era of global boiling”. As we’re grappling with the hottest summer on record, monsoon rains are devastating many regions and workers are collapsing in blazing heat. Yet, in the midst of this climate collapse, we find hope in the transformative and regenerative power of youth climate justice movements.
From spearheading the greatest global social mobilisation in history back in 2019 and achieving groundbreaking environmental policies, like the European Green Deal, to recent success in rallying nations worldwide to establish a Loss & Damage Fund, the impact of youth climate justice movements has been crucial for moving the needle on climate action. More recently, we witnessed a historic milestone when young people obtained the UN General Assembly to request an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the critical nexus of climate change and human rights. Youth climate justice movements are essential to increase awareness, apply political pressure, hold companies accountable, support legal actions, and mobilise society to act on the twin social and climate crisis.
To celebrate the essential role that youth movements are playing worldwide, International Youth Day always falls in the middle of August, at a time where most people based in the Western world are enjoying holidays and a slower pace of life. On the flip side, for our movements, August is always a key moment of preparation, strategising, and reenergising as we get ready for the UN General Assembly and other regional weeks. This year is particularly special for us as we say farewell to our UN Youth Envoy, after six years of working relentlessly to support young people fighting for their future all around the globe. Jayathma Wickramanayake empowered generations and generations of young people with such kindness, thoughtfulness, and compassion: she’s an inspiration to us all.
As we’re gearing up for another year of events and key international objectives, a few things are weighing heavily on our minds. With nations backtracking on their climate objectives, we need to hold policy-makers accountable to their promises. As more and more communities are facing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, we need to raise ambition to get climate policies that are fairer and more equitable. Finally, we need to do everything to nourish the next generations of diverse organisers rooted in community and climate justice principles. Yet, all of this cannot happen without well-resourced, strongly empowered, and widely supported youth climate justice movements.
As youth climate justice activists ourselves, we continue to face and witness the scarcity with which youth climate justice advocates grapple with. To corroborate our assumptions, we set up the Youth Climate Justice Study and we found that youth-led climate justice initiatives receive only 0.76% of climate grants from the largest climate foundations (The Hour is Late, 2022 in collaboration with ClimateWorks Foundation). Moreover, the available funding in the United States remains significantly greater than in other regions, thus US based groups receive many times more funding than the global average, highlighting a profound inequality within the climate movement itself.
Based on these findings, the authors of this article in collaboration with other incredible youth climate justice leaders, including former and current members of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group, started working on a crazy idea: setting-up a youth-led Youth Climate Justice Fund. Championing youth-led participatory grant making, our goal is to build strong youth climate justice leadership. To achieve this, we are making sure that trust between movements and funders can be built and that our application processes not only have youth movements in mind but place youth climate justice leaders at the heart of the decision-making process. Core to our decision-making is to prioritise funding and resources for groups led by young people who have historically been and continue to be marginalised and disadvantaged, including - but not restricted to - people of colour, women, queer folks, indigenous peoples and local communities.
We are supported by major global philanthropic institutions such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the Oak Foundation, etc… While working with such important players, our mission will also be to serve as a bridge between funders and youth organisers. The Goals House has been such an essential part of this success, co-hosting numerous events from COP27 to London Climate Action Week to mobilise donors and allies. We are committed to empowering new funders with insights and opportunities, enabling them to better support youth climate justice initiatives. Through these efforts, we aspire to strengthen the financial support and amplify the impact of the movement as a whole in the fight for climate justice. It is through these efforts that we will pursue our partnership with Goals House to mobilise allies, funders, and donors.
The Youth Climate Justice Fund will be officially launched during NY Climate Week in September and will be back at the Goals House for an exciting breakfast with supporters, new funders and incredible guests. It’s also with great joy that we celebrate International Youth Day by sharing with you all the Youth Climate Justice Fund’s first call for funding applications (find more information here and don’t hesitate to reach out!). Collectively, we have the power to ignite beautiful change, build equitable and sustainable futures in partnership with our Goals House community.
Joshua Amponsem, Green Africa Youth Organisation
Nathan Metenier, Former UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisor, co-Founder of Generation Climate Europe
Paloma Costa, Brazilian young climate activist, Former UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisor