Youth climate practitioners unite for change

Friendship founder Runa Khan discusses COP, youth engagement, other pressing climate issues with young Bangladeshi climate activists ahead of COP28.

Clockwise: Md. Mosleh Uddin, Head of Partnership Development at The Earth, Friendship founder Runa Khan, Co-founder of Footsteps Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, YouthNet Executive Coordinator Sohanur Rahman, Tazrian Iqbal from Youth Policy Forum and Co-founder of Awareness 360 Rijve Arefin. ©FRIENDSHIP/SUMAN GHOSH
by Tahmeed Chaudhury
November 23, 2023

Friendship hosted a pre-COP meet and greet titled Road to COP: Amplifying the Youth’s Voices for COP28 at the its head office in Dhaka. The event brought together Friendship founder Runa Khan with youth climate practitioners who have worked extensively with climate-impacted communities—most of whom will represent the Bangladesh in the Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai.

The discussion was held with the purpose of creating a collaborative space for the young Bangladeshi climate leaders to voice their opinions and exchange experiences and perspectives on a range of climate challenges and adaptation measures.

It started with the role of youth in tackling climate change, the challenges young climate activists experience in Bangladesh, the lack of space and support to make themselves heard, the humanitarian challenges being caused by climate change, etc. The discussion then moved on to the upcoming COP28 which will take place in Dubai, UAE from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

According to Friendship founder Runa Khan, young people are inheriting leadership of a changing world. “The youth are already at the forefront of the climate crisis and actively take part in disaster management and adaptation planning,” she said. Referring to Mosammat Rupali Khatun and Nurunnahar Khatun, two Friendship school alumni who spoke at the European Parliament earlier this year and had joined the discussion online, she continued, “They both had their homes destroyed multiple times in their lifetimes due to floods and erosions. Youngsters like them should be given the platform to share their experiences as they are bearing the brunt of the crisis.”

The event brought together Friendship founder Runa Khan with youth climate practitioners who have worked extensively with climate-impacted communities—most of whom will represent the Bangladesh in the Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai. ©FRIENDSHIP/SUMAN GHOSH

“We are willing to step up in the climate crisis and do more. However, we often lack the backing, funds and accessibility to do so,” said Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, Forbes 30 under 30 recipient and co-founder and president of Footsteps, a social enterprise that works on community development issues in Bangladesh. He said youth leaders should be encouraged, motivated and supported to keep undertaking assignments and taking unheard voices to global platforms. “With proper support, the youth can go one step further in this climate crisis.”

“Time is running out to limit emissions to 1.5C but the leaders aren’t taking any effort and implementation plans made no progress in recent years,” said Sohanur Rahman, Executive Coordinator of YouthNet, an organisation of young people advocating for climate justice, when asked about what he expects from the negotiations at COP. “We literally see a lot of promise but little delivery.”

Referring to the recent weather changes that led to 2023 being the hottest summer in recorded history and increasing frequency of natural disasters, he continued, “We still have time to act but it’s running out. Unless negotiations and decisions are converted into timely action, the planet earth will not be liveable for long.” He also feels the COP presidency should encourage further youth participation in the negotiations and side events by allowing more slots and funding.

Tazrian Iqbal, from the Youth Policy Forum (TPF) feels youth-led organisations should abandon competition and come together. “We should help each other identify and mitigate gaps. Each organisation plays a specialised role. YPF can help with research and policy advocacy, and another organisation may implement solutions on the ground.”

Also present at the event were Diana Award and Forbes 30 under 30 winner and co-founder of Awareness 360 Rijve Arefin, and Md. Mosleh Uddin, Head of Partnership Development at The Earth.

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