Inspiring! Reflective! Hopeful!

After an amazing enriching experience as a delegate at LCOY USA 2023, I write to reflect on this opportunity which provided me a space to learn about climate adaptation, mitigation and just transition and put forward climate policies ideas.

The conference took place at American University, Washington, D.C. from October 20 - October 22, 2023. LCOY (Local Conference of Youth) is an event under the umbrella of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It provides space for youth climate action and creates an input into the international conferences. It represents a national version of the international conference of Youth (COY), which takes place before the Conference of Parties (COP), the annual UN-Climate Change Conference.

The conference gathered 125 dedicated climate activists from across the United States with the aim of creating a National Youth Climate Statement for COP 28 (Conference of Parties). With the United States being one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, it is crucial for the country to commit to decrement of greenhouse gases and build strong Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which are simply climate action plans of countries ratifying the Paris Agreement. The policies and resolutions for COP 28 will be submitted to White House officials under the Biden Administration.

The three major aspects we had workshops on were 1. Adaptation 2. Mitigation 3. Just Transition These are integral parts of NDCs.

Here are my few key takeaways:

  1. Inclusion of youth - Young people constitute more than half of the global population and will be facing the extreme consequences of climate change. They are one of the stakeholders and must be provided the space, resources and opportunities to lead towards a climate-resilient present and future. Therefore, establishment of a National Youth Office could be one potential idea to represent youth and youth groups working for climate change.
  2. Accountability- Countries that emit high greenhouse gasses emissions should be held accountable. One potential solution could be to provide compensation to the countries who are facing the harsh consequences of climate change.
  3. Climate education - Currently, the majority of the educational institutions do not have a climate change curriculum which prevents the young people from learning and taking action. Therefore, the curriculum should include climate change topics and teach students about it from a young age. At the moment, New Jersey is the first and only state to mandate climate education in school curriculum (K-12).

Fossil fuels are a major source of greenhouse gasses resulting in harsh consequences of livelihoods, environment and humanity. Countries responsible must commit to decreasing it with transparency and effective implementation with the inclusion of youths who possess the innovation, knowledge, time and resiliency to work towards a climate-resilient future. The conference reminded me of my passion and power as a youth and all the amazing fellow delegates inspired me to continue working together to create positive change and of course a sustainable future where equity thrives. 

Being an indigenous youth, a woman of color and belonging to the Global South, I was able to put forward my ideas regarding these 3 aspects of NDC. The gaps in NDC of the USA were reviewed. I belong to one of the most serene, historically, culturally and naturally rich, Khumbu Valley, which lies in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal which is one of the southeast Asian countries, home to some of the highest peaks and mountains, green luscious forests, rivers, and rich cultural diversity. My ancestral home, Khumbu, is home to several mountains including the highest peak, Mount Everest. Here, livelihoods depend on tourism and animal husbandry. According to a research, the Khumbu glacier has been found to be very close to the melting point indicating the chances of Glacial Lake Flood Outbursts (GLOFs) posing a threat to villages downstream and thousands of lives. Therefore, due to the country’s diverse geo-climatic system, livelihood depending on nature, and the northern part of the country consisting of peaks and mountains, it is very much vulnerable to climate change. The country is ranked 4th most vulnerable to climate change and only emits 0.027% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. 

Growing up in my second home, Kathmandu, where I did my schooling and college education, I experienced several environmental challenges like energy burden and urban flooding which posed a significant challenge to my studies. During the monsoon season, due to heavy rain and lack of proper drainage system, the rainwater used to be all over the streets. This used to make it difficult for pedestrians to walk. I clearly remember during my fourth grade, it was early morning, raining heavily and I was on my way to school. The water level reached above my ankle and I had to remove my shoes and walk barefoot until I reached the sidewalk where there was no overflow of water. 

This is an environmental challenge I experienced, though I did not think about it that way because I was used to it. The generations before me got used to it too. I believe it was because of the normality of not reacting to such issues that I observed as a child and the resiliency passed on from generations. I believe this is because of a lack of knowledge regarding environmental and climate issues. 

Aside from my personal experiences, I had the opportunity to work at Nepalese Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), where I reviewed Nepal’s 2020 NDC. This time it was an even more exciting experience for me to review the NDC of the USA since the country is one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. 

One of my highlights of the conference was meeting and speaking to one of the keynote speakers, Sophia Powless, Program Coordinator, Energy and Environment Program at The Aspen Institute. Sophia shared about her story of growing up in Onondaga Nation and her experience as an indigenous person facing several environmental challenges posing a threat to her home, culture, and history. Sophia’s story was relatable to me, and it gave me immense hope and courage to follow my dreams of working in the field of environmental justice.

This opportunity definitely provided me with an international perspective and lens towards climate action plans. In addition, currently working as a 350 Mass Intern and involved in ‘Make Polluters Pay Campaign’ at Better Future Project has been an enriching experience to learn more about climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Lastly, my heartfelt gratitude to the team of LCOY USA 2023 for such an enriching experience. 

#climatepolicies #youthinclusion #COP28 #LCOYUSA2023 #climatejustice

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