2022 IRENA Youth Forum: Global Youth Gather to Spur Action on Energy Transition

19 January 2022| Articles


Young leaders from around the world issued a clear call for action at the 2022 IRENA Youth Forum. Held under the theme ‘Youth-led solutions to accelerate the energy transition and achieve climate objectives’ on the sidelines of the recently concluded 12th Assembly of IRENA, over 400 young energy leaders gathered virtually and called on organisations, governments, private sector, academia and civil society to take urgent action to ensure that the energy transition is led by the youth.

Addressing young delegates in his opening keynote, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera, said: “As we come together today to hear and learn about concrete actions and innovative solutions from and for youth, I encourage you to continue embodying these ideals in your actions. IRENA is with you at every step of the way."

Emphasising the role of young people in combating climate change, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, said in her welcoming remarks, it is clear by now that the youth’s involvement and leadership play a pivotal role in realising a just and inclusive sustainable energy transition. “Collectively and individually, your innovations will help develop renewables that accelerate the energy transition and put the world on a path to meet climate targets. Our promise to you is that we will have the highest levels of youth participation in delegations to the COP28 that the UAE will host," the minister added.

 

Opening the 3rd edition of the Forum, moderator Lydia Sanz Lozano, introduced the panel with a strong statement: "Today we represent youth from all around the world. As we gather here to talk about the power of renewable energy and to promote an inclusive energy transition for all, our goal is to bring together young voices. We not only bring urgency to the climate debate but also bring solutions and the willingness to cooperate as stakeholders.”

The Forum featured a presentation on the outcome of the Global Youth Energy Outlook report by Student Energy, a youth-led international organisation empowering young people to accelerate the sustainable energy transition. Sharing outcomes from the report, Helen Watts, Senior Director of Global Partnership, Student Energy, pointed that the majority of youth respondents want their country to reach net zero emissions by 2030. “While more and more countries set net zero targets for 2050 or 2100, it is clear their youth want their countries to decarbonise faster with immediate action to bend the curve on emissions,” she added.

Despite the barriers that the youth face, they continue to provide creative sustainable energy solutions and strive for a more sustainable future. Citing one such example, Esther Wanza, Field Operations Coordinator, RAYNOW Energy shared a start-up success story in implementing a 3 Kw solar PV project with 2.5 kW storage that enables a health centre in Kenya to see more than 60 patients a day. “The project is something to smile about,” she said.

The Forum also discussed the need to invest in skill development in the renewable energy sector. "We have enough solar, wind and biomass to power Africa but we lack the trainers that can pass this knowledge on to the younger generations. Skill development needs to be up-scaled in order to make young people employable, especially in the renewable energy market,” Victoria Edeha-Anthony, Founder of D'Young Energy and Youth Sustainable Energy Hub Representative, pointed out.

In a special video message addressing the Forum, Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Youth, said education is key to addressing climate change as it can encourage the youth to change their attitudes and behaviour and can help them to make informed decisions. “Education must become more relevant to the biggest challenge our world is facing right now. Everything we learn must be seen through the eco lens,” she said.

In his closing remarks, Ibrahim Togola, President of Mali-Folke Center Nyetaa, stressed the need for a stronger government policy framework. “Regulations hold the key to accelerate energy transition. Governments across the African continent and many other developing countries are working towards drafting robust policy frameworks to increase the generation of renewable energy.”

Young leaders welcomed the realisation of the youth initiatives announced by IRENA for 2022, including the launch of the Global Council on Enabling Youth Action for SDG7, a training programme for young climate and energy leaders, launched in response to the request of the Youth4Climate Pre-COP in Milan, and educational activities, including teacher training support.