by Malek Romdhane and Vincent Diringer
In the run-up to COP26, the climate calendar seems busy with youth summits. One of these events is the 16th UN Conference of Youth on Climate Change (COY16). Endorsed by COP26 President Alok Sharma, and UN Youth Envoy Secretary-General Jayathma Wickramanayake, COY16 will take place in October 2021 in Glasgow, a week before COP26. The first Conference of Youth was held in 2005 in Montreal, Canada, prior to COP11 and has been a fixture since.
It’s worth pointing out that COY is organized by youth and prepares them for climate negotiations and builds their policy-making skills. We had the pleasure of interviewing one of the key people in COY16 and also the person who designed the new logos of COY16 and YOUNGO for this year, Jan Kairel Cabalona Guillermo.
Jan is a youth leader from Leyte, Philippines. Leyte was the ground zero of the world’s strongest typhoon (Super Typhoon Haiyan) that ravaged the Philippines back in 2013. He was once a government official for three years and currently works as Communications and Outreach Consultant in Carnegie Climate Governance in New York.
Jan’s work involves using the arts as a medium to educate young people about the climate crisis. Having just graduated Arts Management in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore, he wishes to represent the Creative and Arts Sector at the climate negotiating table, through YOUNGO. He is currently serving as the COY Liaison of YOUNGO the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC and the lead of the Global Affairs Unit of COY16.
What is special about the upcoming edition of COY? And how can youth attend COY16?
Jan: There are several areas that make COY16 special in this edition. One of those is the content of the programmes. Aside from our wide array of themes and topics for the plenary and parallel sessions, we will also include skill-building workshops so our delegates can learn and bring new skills when they go back to their home countries.
We also set up the Global Affairs Unit, with country coordinators from almost all of the countries. This is to ensure that voices from the grassroots are heard and involved in the process. The workforce is immortalizing the event’s tagline “Unifying for Change”. For the first time, COY gathered the biggest organizations such as UNMGCY and UK Organizations to be onboard. We also have the best YOUNGO members and Country Coordinators assuring that COY16 is up and running despite the pandemic.
The COY16 will be open to everyone, but we have a selection process due to the pandemic restrictions of the venue. The details will be published on our official social media channels: LinkedIn; Twitter; Facebook and Instagram.
Why is it important to involve youth in the UNFCCC negotiations? And how will COY16 prepare the youth delegation to be more prepared to attend COP26?
Jan: It is important to be involved because we will inherit this planet. Aside from taking the streets to build pressure on our leaders, it is also important to bring the youth voice where negotiations are taking place. It is vital to be involved in these processes so you can share your stories with your network as well. Somehow you are also educating your peers through your narratives.
COY16 will prepare our youth delegates that are admitted through our sessions specific to the COP and UNFCCC processes. We will design the content of this session so they will have a better understanding of the activities and events during COP.
What are your hopes for COY16 and COP26?
Jan: Right now, my greatest hope that the COVID-19 trends will not further delay or cancel the physical event. Live events are still different in so many aspects. As to the youth sector, it is the experience that ignites more their dedication to this movement.
For COP26, I am aiming for countries to take more actions beyond what is written in their NDCs or the agreements. As a survivor of the world’s strongest typhoon, we are already experiencing the havoc of the impacts of climate change and we are running out of time.
Photo: Jan Kairel Cabalona Guillermo at a climate-related international event.
With the hope that the COVID-19 outbreak will be over soon, we wish all the success for all the organizers of COY16 and all the youth climate activists in general, in their mission to make the voice of youth heard this year at the table of negotiations in Glasgow 2021 and beyond.