Climate change leader Thobeka Shange shares her COP24 experiences

Image: Sphiwe Dlamini

Our young climate leader Thobeka Shange is at the UN Climate Change Summit (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, for the next two weeks, lending her young African voice to the negotiations! Follow her blog here:

Day 1

This year I have the opportunity to attend the 24th Conference of the Parties summit, informally known as COP24. COP is the supreme body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its annual summits are attended by environmental experts, ministers, heads of state and non-governmental organisations.

On the first day I attended two sessions: the plenary session of national statements and the update on the work of the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB).

The plenary session of national statements was based on the feedback of the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the work of the PCCB in boosting the capacity of developing countries to address climate change. One of the important topics raised was how to reach realistic and applicable solutions using the Paris Agreement and the rulebook. Cross-cutting issues such as how climate change disrupts countries’ economies, leads to famine, and impacts vulnerable communities were also discussed.

I was really moved by the things that other countries have committed themselves to doing in order to deal with climate change such as Finland committing to ban the use of coal by 2029, and Nigeria and Bulgaria setting a 20% emission reduction over the next few years. I learnt that most countries are really doing this for the future generation and their wellbeing, as well as the fact that they want environmental and climate justice.

Most countries believe that they should work hard to involve the youth in addressing climate change. There are efforts by world leaders to expose the youth to these issues and guide them as they know that they are the future leaders problem-solvers. I also realised it’s not just the youth, but also civil society organisations working tirelessly to deal with climate change.

As a young African leader, these experiences are helping me to see how other countries are addressing climate change – and how these can be applied back home.

Innovations for clean energy supply were also discussed, as well as the importance of involving local level leaders in climate change solutions. Keeping lines of communication open with stakeholders will help local leaders gain the trust of stakeholders.

I was surprised to learn about the various environmental commitments world presidents have made – it seems a good first step, even though there is still more to be done. It all starts by sharing information with other people. When I get back home I want to engage more with local communities and make a difference in the fight against climate change. I want to share ideas and resolutions with other organisations, and involve more young people in achieving the goals formulated at COP24.

The more we work together the more equipped we will be to achieve the goals.

During the PCCB discussions a huge emphasis was placed on the fact that funds are not always available for capacity building around climate change solutions, however a review is to be shared and I hope to give feedback on it.

Day 2

On the second day I managed to attend the YOUNGO, Gender and Capacity Building sessions. YOUNGO is a group of young people who come together to talk about many topics including agriculture, energy and gender and how they are related to climate change policy. The members of YOUNGO are working on coming up with realistic and practical ideas to solve issues brought on by climate change.

I decided to join a group that was talking about energy – it’s a broad topic touching on climate change, the environment and how they link together. Soon after that I went to the gender session, which was very interesting.

I learnt that there are an increasing number of women who are being put into leadership positions and given opportunities to shine in the climate action arena. As a young female, I commend this.

Financial support to develop and support women in the climate action world, and thereby make it more gender-inclusive, was also discussed. An organisation making a difference in this area is the African Development Bank.

Lastly, the capacity session was very informative: a review of the Paris Committee on Capacity-building was presented and pressing issues around the provision of finances and resources in the fight against climate change were discussed. Many delegates raised the issue of an inability to carry out effective capacity building, especially among young people, when there are no resources available.

I was also excited to learn that capacity building is being done through a gender-sensitive lens. It’s great that there is a realisation that capacity building around climate action can only be effective if it’s gender-inclusive. I do think civil society has had a role to play here. They are the ones putting pressure on leaders to ensure change happens in an inclusive way.

Find out more about COP24 and the Paris Climate Change Agreement:

Thobeka Shange, 19, is a Sociology and Political Sciences student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a member of our Youth Policy Committee.

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