For almost the entirety of our lives for people of my generation, world leaders have been trying to reach a global consensus – a binding agreement to combat climate change. Last year, at the greatest international climate conference COP 21, they succeeded, giving our generation some much needed hope.
As a citizen one of the most energy-starved nations, I have firsthand experience of extensive power cut that make me spend many nights in darkness. I have also seen the impacts of climate change in the form of increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters that wreak havoc on vulnerable people, and the plight of thousands of climate refugees flooding my city Dhaka. As such I am well aware of the challenges and importance of balancing escalating energy needs with environmental conservation, and attaining sustainable development. And with the Paris Agreement, we have reached a turning point. It is no longer acceptable to be irresponsible with natural resources.
Climate change is the biggest reality of my country and our generation. We have inherited a world where unchecked levels of carbon emissions has led to unprecedented levels of global warming and an unsustainable growth trajectory. There are multiple challenges we are facing, including basic issues of generational fairness and social justice. Youth not responsible for the climate crisis but will be bearing most of the burden and in the future.
In order to make the historic Paris agreement truly transformative for our nations, we have to use our power as writers, voters, activists, mobilizers and innovators to attain a zero carbon future, while catering to the growing energy needs of developing countries such as Bangladesh. There are real prospects of renewable energy – specially hydroelectric and solar – in countries such as mine, and youth like us can join forces to work on influencing policy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Increased involvement and cooperation among youth is required to create a gallery of creative solutions to meet the challenges climate change poses and to transition to a renewable energy dependent development trajectory.
However, in order for youth to have a strong impact, leaders need to go beyond rhetoric and mere recognition of the implications of climate change on youth. They need to provide youth opportunities for meaningful engagement and scope to influence climate change policies. The youth will be taking forward the discussion on climate change, and to do so they need power to be able to destabilize the status quo.
At this critical juncture, youth just cannot afford to fail this generation and future generations. We have to play our part, lift each other up and take the reins of this planet’s future in our hands.