9. Integrate the voices of younger generations in decision making

Younger generations will inherit the consequences of clean energy transition decisions taken today, and represent a vital voice in the clean energy debate. Many parts of the world are experiencing stronger levels of youth activism, and experimenting with new ways to involve young voices in agenda setting and decision making.

  • The SDG7 Youth Constituency provides a platform for youth to participate in the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 7, and to channel their voices into key multilateral decision making forums.
  • Alongside the Pre-COP ministerial, Italy organised the “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition” summit, where young people from across the world gathered in Milan to discuss topics and elaborate proposals, which for the first time are officially contributing to COP26 negotiations.
  • The UN Secretary General has established a Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, to ensure active participation in the debate.
  • The Global Youth Energy Outlook is the first youth-led research project of its kind to engage over 30 000 young people to share their perspectives on the energy transition.
  • In Denmark, the Youth Climate Council works to encourage Danish youth to take part in the climate debate and make recommendations to the minister.

Skills training, capacity building and tailored education programmes to help young people prepare for jobs in clean energy sectors can greatly expand opportunities. 

  • The ‘Youth for a Just Transition toolkit’ published by the European Commission offers detailed recommendations to encourage participation by youth in regions targeted by the European Just Transition Fund.
  • Panama has launched an SDG7 academy for young people in energy to bolster awareness and develop skills.
  • In Belgium, the SYSTEMIC programme aims to increase interest among young Europeans in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
  • Youth also represent the emerging generation of innovators and entrepreneurs that will provide the technical and social solutions of the future.
  • The Youth Sustainable Energy Hub Progress Report highlights how youth projects contribute to promoting sustainable energy and other aspects of sustainable development.
  • The Belgian transmission grid operator, Elia, organised a hackathon in October 2021 to tackle a number of challenges for energy transitions, including new market design, with the aim of increasing participation from students and young innovators.
  • South Africa has launched the ‘Drivers for Youth Change’ pilot initiative to fund and provide technical support to select youth-led climate projects.

While young people work to actively promote clean energy transitions, there is a need for expanding clean energy components in basic educational programmes as well as for greater support of youth-led initiatives in terms of funding, enabling policies and data provision. The Canada-based global initiative, Student Energy, for example, is launching the Solutions Movement to mobilise USD 150 million by 2030 to support 10 000 youth-led clean energy projects globally.

Energy transitions should also ensure that young people in less developed countries do not suffer from reduced productivity and opportunities due to lack of access to energy. As such, clean energy access policies must also include a particular focus on youth. For example, Nigeria has made progress installing off-grid solar solutions at schools to expand reliable energy access to support children’s education. Meanwhile, the Lighting Africa Project in Burkina Faso installs solar lamps in school libraries. 

Case studies

Recognise younger generations as a critical voice in the debate

SDG7 Youth Constituency

The SDG7 Youth Constituency is the energy working group of the Major Group for Children and Youth, mandated by UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/67/290 to facilitate youth engagement in the review of Sustainable Development Goals. The constituency acts as a global network of youth in energy and works with international organisations such asIRENA, SEforALL, IEA, UNIDO and other UN entities to promote meaningful youth engagement in the energy sector. The network focuses on representing children and young people at global fora, creating and developing knowledge on issues of youth and energy, spotlighting youth leadership and capacity building for young energy professionals. In November 2020, the constituency launched the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub, the first online platform dedicated to showcasing best practices of youth practitioners in the sustainable energy sector. 

Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition

The ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition’ meeting in Milan took place on 28-30 September 2021 during the Pre-COP26 ministerial summit in Milan, and was designed to ensure young people were involved in COP negotiations. The summit brought together more than 400 young people from around the world and provided a forum for them to develop concrete proposals for COP26 in Glasgow. The event’s first two days consisted of working groups, while the last day was dedicated to discussions between young delegates and the ministers present at Pre-COP26. The ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition’ meeting was part of larger process of engagement of young people, which started at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York in 2019, and which has ensured that young people’s voices are included in high-level conversations on climate change. 

UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change

The UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change consists of seven young environmental activists from all across the world. In a context of ever-rising international youth climate activism, the UN Secretary General established this group in July 2020 to ensure young people’s voices are represented at the highest levels of UN climate negotiations. Since its creation, the group has provided advice on the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s climate change strategy for 2020-21. Following an extensive international consultation process with other young climate leaders, the group also published a ‘Global Youth Outreach’ report in December 2020, summarising young people’s top climate concerns and their views on the most urgent actions world leaders should undertake in 2021. These processes have ensured active participation and recognition of young people in clean energy and climate change debates.

Global Youth Energy Outlook

The Global Youth Energy Outlook is a major youth-led research project designed to collect perspectives on the energy transitions from over 30 000 young people all around the world. It is one of the programmes of the Canada-based Student Energy, a global youth-led organisation working with a network of 50 000 young people from over 120 countries to build the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to take action on energy. The outlook is led by a team of 12 regional coordinators from around the globe who are compiling answers to a ten-question survey disseminated internationally as well as information collected from a series of regional dialogues and webinars. The findings are going to be presented in a final report that will be launched at COP26 in November 2021.

Denmark’s Youth Climate Council

The Youth Climate Council is an advisory board to the Danish Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities that serves as a mouthpiece for Danish youth to bring innovative thinking and inputs to the climate politics. The initiative was deployed at the request of the Danish Youth Delegates and the Youth Council (an umbrella organisation of 75 youth-led Danish organisations, including for example scouts, student councils and all political youth parties). The Council currently consists of fifteen young volunteers with different educational and occupational backgrounds responsible for collecting the views of young people all over Denmark in order to formulate concrete proposals. The Council can feed these proposals directly into the development of climate policies, most notably through meetings with the Minister. 

EU Youth for a Just Transition toolkit

To help engage young people in the clean energy transition and just transition for impacted communities, the EU’s Youth for a Just Transition toolkit provides a pathway for inputs from youth into execution of the Just Transition Fund. It offers principles, best practices and strategies that can help maximise the participation of youth in the programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the fund. The toolkit is based on extensive literature reviews as well as interviews with experts and stakeholders, leading to 30 best practice examples for youth engagement. Actions identified include appointing youth ambassadors, structured dialogue with young people and dedicated activities at schools. As a result, the toolkit is expected to lead to better-targeted strategies and measures for implementing the just transition that incorporate the needs, opinions, fears and hopes of youth as an important part of the dialogue and decision-making process.

SDG7 Academy in Panama

Panama’s Ministry of Energy allied with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation to create a virtual school focused on the clean energy transition, where young people can attend courses delivered by experts in the field of energy. Based on Sustainable Development Goal 7 “Affordable and clean energy for all”, the objective is to educate and motivate young Panamanians who are about to enter the labour market, to work for a just, inclusive and equitable energy transition. Launched in May 2021, the first online course offered aimed at developing skills in different fields related to energy, such as geopolitics, policy and regulation, communication, innovation and leadership, and strengthening awareness on gender equity, sustainability and social transformation. Already, 22 young people have attended this course and the goal is to continue training more people in the coming years.

SYSTEMIC in Belgium

The SYSTEMIC (Say Yes to Stem in the Classroom) project aims to increase young Europeans’ interest in STEM education. For teachers, the project will provide new pedagogical tools to enable them to teach STEM topics differently and develop new teaching approaches. In close collaboration with STEM Alliance, SYSTEMIC will contribute to a European STEM awareness campaign. This joint initiative between the Ministries of Education (via EUN Partnership) and Industry (through CSR Europe) will also build a network of STEM schools involving STEM teachers, guidance counsellors and heads of schools.

Youth Sustainable Energy Hub Progress Report

The Youth Sustainable Energy Hub Progress Report showcases 98 youth projects from around the world that have contributed to promoting clean energy sources and other aspects of sustainable development in their communities, countries and regions. Its objective is to demonstrate the role young people can play in promoting and advancing sustainable development goals. This report is part of the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub (YSEH), the first online platform dedicated to showcasing best practice of youth practitioners in the sustainable energy sector. YSEH was launched in November 2021 by the SDG7 Youth Constituency, a global platform for youth to take part in the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 7, focused on energy access, renewables and energy efficiency.

Elia’s consumer-centric market design and hackathon in Belgium

Elia, the Belgian transmission grid operator, has published a white paper on a consumer-centric and sustainable electricity system. The proposed consumer-centric market design outlines the group’s vision to create value for all and trigger innovation for decarbonisation. To achieve the implementation of their market design, Elia Group will consult and engage with all relevant stakeholders, public and private. As part of the consultations, Elia Group will also organise a hackathon in October to tackle a number of challenges for energy transitions, including new market design, with the aim of increasing participation from students and young innovators.

South Africa’s Driving Force for Change initiative

The Driving Force for Change programme is a pilot project from the South African Federal Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to provide financial support to initiatives developed by young people with a positive impact on climate change. In July 2020, youth and youth-led organisations were invited to apply for funding of projects across several areas: waste management solutions, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity and ecosystems. The projects submitted were evaluated according to criteria that included their environmental impacts as well as social and economic impacts, and their potential for replicability and scalability. Out of 250 applications received, 13 concepts were selected in November 2020 to receive financial support of more than ZAR 1 million (USD 70 000); they were all realised as operational projects. Besides engaging young people in reaching South Africa’s environmental goals, the initiative’s projects also helped address the country’s unemployment crisis, which particularly affects youth. 

Student Energy Solutions Movement

Solutions Movement is a global programme designed to raise USD 160 million by 2030 to support 10 000 youth-led clean energy projects around the world. It is a programme of the Canada-based Student Energy, a global youth-led organisation working with a network of 50 000 young people from over 120 countries. Solutions Movement was announced on 25 June 2021 as one of the first youth-led UN Energy Compacts. This programme is helping empower young people with the financial resources necessary for them to advance clean energy initiatives and will help train up to 50 000 young workers, with a focus on young people in developing nations, especially women. 

Nigeria off-grid access for schools

The Solar Nigeria Programme is an initiative to increase the uptake of public and private off-grid solar power markets in Nigeria. Following a previous series of unsuccessful publically-funded solar projects in Nigeria, the initiative targeted visible major public infrastructure to demonstrate solar power’s effectiveness. Since 2015, and with funding support from the EU and UK government, the programme has supported the development of solar installations across Nigeria, including bringing over 5 MW of installed solar power capacity to 175 schools and 11 primary hospitals in the State of Lagos. The successful deployment of reliable energy access in these public health and education facilities demonstrated the social development benefits that off-grid solar solutions can play to provide energy access to children to support local education. The expansion of solar has since become a key component of the Nigerian government’s policy to increase energy access across the country. 

Lighting Africa solar lantern project in Burkina Faso

The Lighting Africa initiative was set up to address the limits to education and economic opportunity that come with lack of access to modern energy services. Part of the World Bank Group’s contribution to SEforAll, Lighting Africa has expanded basic electricity access through off-grid solar solutions to 32.3 million people across the continent, starting with pilot projects in Ghana and Kenya in 2009. Part of the Lighting Africa’s USD 1.5 million effort to expand off-grid solar access in Burkina Faso is a programme to offer solar lanterns to libraries in rural schools through partnerships with local distributors. The project has benefited over 400 schools throughout the country, and is accompanied by a consumer education campaign on energy efficiency and off-grid solar lamps.