For Qatari student Sara Sultan Almaadeed, the need to talk about the consequences of climate change is beyond urgent. “I can’t turn around and pretend I am saving the world by using my car fewer times than usual when fires rage on in different parts of the world,” she says. While she knows that doing something instantaneously tangible about the climate crisis does not fall entirely into the hands of the youth, she says: “We have a unique capacity to transform the disaster that is our environment through our speech, through our informed perspectives, and through youth culture.”
Like Almaadeed, 400 other young people from all over the world are set to attend Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition, in Milan, Italy, which will also see Qatar Foundation (QF) and its entities participate from September 28 to October 2. The event, hosted by the Government of Italy as part of Pre-COP26, is considered “historic” as this will be the first time that young people will bring forward their proposals and engage in discussions with government representatives attending the event.
The results of these discussions will then be taken to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021, and will also be shared in other United Nations meetings concerning sustainable development.
“We have a unique opportunity to express empathy not just for the people or animals suffering, but for our world as a whole; nothing around us deserves to die due to carelessness,” says Almaadeed, who is participating in Youth4Climate through Qatar Debate, a QF member. “Opportunities like Youth4Climate illustrate how our thoughts have the potential to be transformed into real policies – into real change – only if we let them.”
QF’s participation in Youth4Climate will be through its initiative Doha Debates, which, among other activities, will host an edition of its #DearWorldLive series; THIMUN Qatar, which comes under QF’s Pre-University Education (PUE) and will participate in two panels, led by youth and educators, on their roles in climate action; Qatar Debate, which will engage in a presidential-style debate on future eco-leaders; and a Qatar Foundation International discussion that will delve into partnerships that guide students through the process of exploring sustainability in their local community resulting in global impacts.
“As youth, it is vital that we participate in events that aim to solve a plethora of issues regarding the climate, as we represent the future leaders who will inevitably inherit the fight for our planet, and gain responsibility for it,” says Noora al-Muftah, a Grade 10 student of Qatar Academy Doha (QAD) – a school under QF’s PUE – and a Youth4Climate panelist, as well as a QAD Model United Nations (MUN) vice-president for 2021-22.
“Events like Youth4Climate give youth a voice and restore our generations’ faith and part in climate action.”
As Qatar transitions from a nation dependent on hydrocarbons to one that is built on sustainability in all aspects – economic, human, social and environmental – it becomes imperative to educate and transfer knowledge to the younger generation of this renewed journey of development and growth. “The work we’ll be doing is promoting awareness in Qatar about the potential of renewable energy usage in Qatar,” says Khalid al-Nabti, another Grade 10 student at QAD, as well as a Youth4Climate panelist and QAD MUN treasurer for 2021-22.
“This is vital for sustaining the economic growth of Qatar, and stopping the effects of climate change. One of the ways we can do this is by teaching the youth of Qatar about the potential of wind energy and solar energy in Qatar.”
At Youth4Climate, four major themes will be at the centre of the discussion: youth driving ambition; sustainable recovery; non-state actors’ engagement; and climate-conscious society. The Pre-COP26 meeting will be attended by 35-40 countries, representatives of the UNFCCC Secretariat, the chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies of the Convention, and stakeholders who play a key role in the fight against climate change and the transition to sustainable development.