Growing into the future we create

It is common to see rhetoric about how “young people are the future” in relation to climate change. As COP26 enters its final leg, Georgina Ryan, National President of UN Youth, shares her views with UNIC Canberra and believes that waiting to act until today’s young people are in positions of power will be far too late to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming.

As a young high school student participating in a Model United Nations debate at the Victorian State Conference in 2017, Georgina Ryan was first exposed to the concept of climate refugees and was baffled by the inadequate support which small island nations of the Pacific region received. “This has metaphorical resonance for the importance of listening to developing countries in the context of today’s international climate policy”, said Ms Ryan, who was inspired to volunteer with UN Youth Australia and is currently the President of UN Youth Australia .

“Given the continued context of devastating bush-fires and floods in Australia over the last two years, young people and their families are increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change in Australia. This is apparent from the preliminary data from the 2021 Listening Tour Report, which is based on consultations with young people run by the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, Lucy Stronach, and UN Youth volunteers”, said Ms Ryan, as she shares about youth and their passion about climate action out of necessity.

“Young people are especially skilled at climate activism because of the ability to mobilize and create movements on a global scale through digital media more effectively than any generation before. This is one of the key reasons that school strikes have been so successful around the world” she added. This was also evident from UN Youth flagship event, National Conference 2021 that focused on environmental justice which saw several young Australian climate activists involved in the school strike movement and the ‘class action 4 climate’ on a speaker panel.

Young people around the world have been in the forefront of putting forward positive solutions and advocating for climate justice. As the Australian economy currently relies heavily on the production of fossil fuels, Ms Ryan believes that the main challenge to achieving positive solutions is determining how a transition to a renewables-based economy can be done in a way that it becomes politically favourable for those in power.

Ms Ryan applauded the wonderful work of young climate activists at ensuring that climate change stays in the consciousness of the public, without which it is impossible to make climate action a priority for politicians. “People in power at all levels of government need to start caring about the thoughts of young people now”, she added.

In line with the words of the Secretary -General at the Pre-COP Youth event urging “young people everywhere to keep raising their voices”, UN Youth Australia continues opening young eyes to the world and empowers young people to realize their power to create change on global issues.

UN Youth Australia is a national youth-led organisation that aims to inspire and educate young Australians on global issues by equipping them with the skills and opportunities to create meaningful change within their communities and throughout the world.

Georgina Ryan is a volunteer and serves as the National President of UN Youth Australia. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and Chemistry at the University of Melbourne and is also completing a Concurrent Diploma in Applied Maths.