United for a Sustainable Future

Empowering change, youth influencers are amplifying their voices for COP28 and the journey to a greener future

By Anam Khan

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Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 4:31 PM

As the world converges for COP28, UAE emerges as a beacon, placing unprecedented emphasis on the role of youth in tackling climate change. Recognising the urgency of climate action, the UAE underscores that the engagement of the younger generation is not just pivotal; it is a driving force for transformative change.

Youth, with their innovative perspectives and boundless energy, bring a fresh impetus to the climate discourse. COP28 in the UAE is not merely a platform for discussion; it's a rallying cry for the next generation to actively participate in shaping solutions.

The youth's stake in climate action is inherently linked to the longevity of the planet and the sustainability of the initiatives undertaken.

The UAE's emphasis on youth involvement extends beyond rhetoric. By empowering the younger demographic with knowledge, skills, and platforms, the nation invests in a sustainable future. Initiatives like the 'Greening Education Hub' unveiled at COP28 exemplify the commitment to integrating climate education into the curricula, ensuring that young minds are equipped to lead the charge for environmental stewardship.

In essence, the UAE recognises that the youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are indispensable architects of a climate-resilient future. By amplifying their voices and providing tangible avenues for action, COP28 in the UAE is not only addressing the climate crisis but sowing the seeds for a legacy of sustainable leadership.

Greener Future for Gnerations

The Global Youth Statement is a comprehensive document that consolidates insights, expectations, and policy proposals from youth organisations and individuals across the globe, representing over 150 countries. It encapsulates the collective demands of young individuals and institutions, making it a critical advocacy piece for COP28.

The COP28 Presidency has been dedicated to fostering transparency and open dialogue, ensuring youth and children are actively involved in major climate policy discussions.

This initiative showcased the dedication to centering youth perspectives in international climate policymaking, setting a model for future COPs.

View of Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai. Dubai - UAE. 27 November 2021
View of Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai. Dubai - UAE. 27 November 2021

Shamma Al Mazrui, the Youth Climate Champion for COP28, expresses her commitment to ensuring unprecedented youth and children's inclusion in the UN climate change negotiations. The youth climate movement continues to grow, with ever-increasing contributions to multilateral climate negotiations.

Youth representation and participation in COP28 are not merely symbolic gestures but a vital component for the success of this global climate conference. The importance of youth engagement in COP28 can be summarised in several key points:

Intergenerational Equity: Climate change is an intergenerational issue, and youth will bear the brunt of its consequences. Involving them in decision-making ensures that their voices are heard, and their futures are taken into account.

Fresh Perspectives: Young people bring innovative ideas, a sense of urgency, and fresh perspectives to the climate dialogue. They are more likely to think outside the box and challenge conventional wisdom, contributing to creative solutions.

Moral Authority: Youth activists and advocates have played a pivotal role in raising awareness about climate change. Their passion and commitment resonate with the public and hold leaders accountable for their climate actions.

Global Solidarity: The climate crisis is a global challenge that transcends borders. Youth participation fosters international collaboration and solidarity, reinforcing the notion that climate action is a shared responsibility.

Long-Term Impact: Decisions made at COP28 will have far-reaching consequences. Engaging youth ensures that these decisions align with long-term sustainability and do not compromise future generations' well-being.

Inspiration and Motivation: Youth participation inspires others to take action and serves as a catalyst for climate movements worldwide. Their enthusiasm is contagious and can mobilise a broader segment of society.

Accountability: Youth hold decision-makers accountable for the promises and commitments they make at COP28. Their presence ensures that climate agreements are not just empty words but lead to concrete actions.

The Global Youth Statement aims to amplify the voices of individuals under 35, particularly from vulnerable communities. The COP28 Presidency is striving to place youth perspectives at the forefront of global policymaking, with the youth climate champion leading the charge for meaningful participation and representation of youth in international climate decision-making. This ensures that the COP28 outcomes are genuinely inclusive of the world's youth and that their voices are heard in the fight against climate change.

Thoughts of a social media influencer

Reza Hossein Kiani.
Reza Hossein Kiani.

Reza Hossein Kiani (@feedkiani) is a social media influencer and food vlogger. Acoording to Reza, youth influencers wield considerable influence in shaping the global narrative. Their extensive reach and impact on social media platforms empower them to drive substantial change, especially when it comes to championing sustainable practices and raising awareness about critical global events like COP28. As a street food enthusiast and influencer, he recognises the increasing importance of influencers in promoting sustainability and climate action. He believes that showcasing how street food can be both delicious and sustainable is a powerful way to influence his followers positively. By highlighting the connection between local ingredients and minimal waste, he aims to raise awareness and inspire better choices. Kiani sees COP28 as a crucial platform for global leaders to make concrete commitments toward fighting climate change.

In a world that's increasingly driven by social media and digital platforms, the role of youth influencers has become more critical than ever. As a big street food fan, I believe our generation holds a unique power to promote sustainability and climate action. By showing how street food can not only be delicious but also sustainable, we can positively influence our followers. Street food is not just about eating delicious dishes; it's also a reflection of the local culture and environment. When people understand the connection between street food, the use of local ingredients, and limited waste, they begin to appreciate how these practices contribute to a more sustainable world. By raising awareness about these aspects, I hope to inspire my followers to make better choices in their daily lives. COP28 is an important platform for global leaders to come together and make concrete commitments towards fighting climate change. It's not just another conference; it's very important for a sustainable future. From a street food perspective, it's about showcasing that local, sustainable ingredients and minimal food waste can significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Youth influencers occupy a pivotal role in promoting sustainable practices and contributing to the triumph of COP28. Their authenticity, vast reach, and substantial influence are invaluable assets in the global crusade against climate change. By harnessing their power to educate, advocate, and mobilize their followers, they have the potential to drive meaningful change, making COP28 a seminal moment in the quest for a sustainable future. I'll use my social media platforms to highlight local street food vendors. By sharing their stories and the impact they're making, I hope to create a connection between delicious food and climate awareness. I want my followers to understand that every small change counts. Whether it's choosing street food made from local ingredients or being mindful of food waste, these actions collectively make a big impact on our environment. I hope to convey the message that, as consumers, we have the power to influence the food industry's sustainability practices.

Thoughts of an entrepreneur

Rishad Hiridjee, Founder of I am Burger.
Rishad Hiridjee, Founder of I am Burger.

Rishad Hiridjee, Founder of I am Burger, a restaurant known for its eco-friendly practices, emphasises the importance of reducing food waste in the restaurant industry. He also highlights the value of locally sourced ingredients and educating customers about sustainability. He believes that customers, mostly youngsters are increasingly interested in the environmental impact of their food choices and appreciate restaurants that prioritise sustainability. His insights align with the goals of COP28 to address climate issues through collective efforts.

Since we opened, almost all our packaging has been eco-friendly, except for our plastic water bottles, plastic cups and straws. On top of that, all of the lights in the restaurant are LEDs which are much more efficient. Our fries for example still have the skin on. Not only because that’s where a lot of the nutrients are, but it also reduces food waste and is able to maximize the use of the whole vegetable.

It's important for restaurants to reduce food waste as much as possible because, at the end of the day, it not only helps the environment but also maximises their profitability. For instance, instead of throwing the trimmings of vegetables and meat after cutting them, why not make a stock out of it? Meat fat trimmings can be used to make tallow, old bread to use as breadcrumbs or croutons etc. The same can be applied to individuals in their homes. Other steps can be taken such as ordering only the amount needed to avoid spoilage, properly storing food to optimise shelf-life, creating portion sizes that won’t create leftovers, and proposing takeaway options to guests. These are just a few examples but there are hundreds of initiatives restaurants can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

We locally source as many ingredients as we can of course. Most of our fruits and vegetables are locally sourced as well as our fresh chicken. You can definitely find cheaper frozen meat alternatives from abroad but I personally wouldn’t want to eat a chicken burger with meat that was processed and frozen in Brazil 6 months ago.

Customers are quite understanding and are willing to learn more about sustainability. We’ve had quite a few who asked us why we don’t have a bigger menu, or why we don’t offer XYZ items. Our answer is that we maximise the use of our ingredients as much as possible. As a burger joint, it wouldn’t make much sense for us to purchase ingredients for a specific dish that can only be used to make that dish, say Fajitas. With our current menu, every item is used at least two or three times in different dishes which helps us reduce waste and maximize usage. When we explain that to them, they smile and usually agree! Customers are usually really interested in what goes on in the kitchen and are always eager to learn more about the process of the food they’re about to eat.

— anam@khaleejtimes.com


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