Youth should spearhead climate movement
Climate activist Sohanur Rahman tells The Daily Observer
Youth climate activists are playing an active role in climate movement as they are trying to make the countries which are responsible for climate disaster accountable. Among so many frontline climate activists including Greta Thunberg who is playing a strong role in amplifying the voice of the young people across the world, Bangladesh's Sohanur Rahman (25) has been one of the key youth climate change activists raising his voice to get climate justice and also depicting the cruel realities of Bangladesh climate victims. He is the Chief Executive of a Youth-led organization named Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament (Protiki Jubo Sangsad). He is the country's key young climate advocate who coordinates the largest youth network YouthNet for Climate Justice and a founding member of the global youth movement Fridays for Future Bangladesh country chapter. Recently the Daily Observer's Banani Mallick has talked with him on the eve of International Youth Day to know his observations about the present role of world leaders in regards to initiative to limit carbon emission, youth participation, forefront terms leadership, climate justice. Excerpts from the interview:
Observer: Tell your journey to be a climate activist, what motivates you to be part of this journey?
Sohanur Rahman: My first-hand experience with the climate crisis was the devastating super cyclone Sidr in 2007. It was a terrifying moment for me. Still I am bearing the trauma of that nightmare. Later in 2009, I was following the UN climate conference COP15 and observed how in spite of Bangladesh being very vocal about what's rightly owed to us to prevent the consequences of climate change, it felt like we weren`t being given our rightful fair share. As a teenager, I was involved with the Child Parliament advocating for child rights, particularly ending child marriage. It was then that I discovered interlinks among climate change and disaster fueled extreme poverty, which would obviously affect children's rights. Being a son of this soil (coastal area), I have witnessed limitless hidden pain and sorrows of the coastal people eventually that stimulated me to work on climate activism. It hurts me that, they're bearing the brunt of costs for loss and damage caused by natural disasters though they are not responsible for the climate crisis. At the age of 20 in 2016, I decided to focus on advocating climate justice and mobilising young people to achieve it. By connecting youth groups and voluntary organisations across Barisal city, I founded a networking platform that works towards promoting youth-led actions and meaningful participation at the local and national levels of climate policy-making. Thus began YouthNet for Climate Justice (A network for climate advocacy in Bangladesh), a coastal youth-led movement. In 2019, YouthNet joined in the first global climate strike expressing solidarity with Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future movement to hold global community accountable for the urgent climate action and support to the affected communities.
Observer: As a climate activist, you play various roles including demanding compensation from the emitters, among these, in which area, do you give more emphasis?
Sohanur Rahman: Climate change is a planetary emergency and it is happening around the world now. The ironic part is we (young people) are not responsible for this cause but we have to inherit such consequences as the future belongs to young people. And we have begun to face major extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods, which deprive us of essential social services. This global crisis is the result of a wrong economic model and is fuelled by capitalism, European colonialism and dominance by powerful men. A global crisis must be treated as a crisis proper and requires global cooperation without delayed response. World leaders must honour their promises and do their responsibility as well. We are emphasising that developed nations keep their promises on climate finance urgently as well as low carbon emissions, shift to renewable energy, nature-based solutions including implementation of local- led adaptation mechanism.
Sohanur Rahman: Young people have a critical leadership role to hold accountable the global climate decision makers. Youth and Future Generations Day have been a key milestone of the Climate summits since COP21.Youth groups have already demonstrated their capabilities to take actions and support environmental causes locally as well as globally. During COP26, youth delegates from different countries took the stage to stress the need to turn words into urgent action as their future is in danger. The Glasgow Climate Pact urged Parties and stakeholders "to ensure meaningful youth participation and representation in multilateral, national and local decision-making processes, including under the Convention and the Paris Agreement", highlighting the role of young people and the need to include them in climate change instances at all levels. Its undeniable thought Youth participation in climate action is one of the main pillars of inclusivity. Youth should be more prominent actor in the decision-making, and even the implementation process, and not just in advocacy work as we are in now. Upcoming COP27 must be more inclusive and annual pre-COP can be a Youth COP as well as an "#Accountability COP" henceforth''. In the COP process, there must be greater young people's representation in national delegations and meaningful participation in sub-national, national, and regional dialogues in the lead-up to the conference.
Observer: We know you have formed a youth group called YouthNet, what exactly are you doing through this platform?
Sohanur Rahman: YouthNet's advocacy includes multiple forms along with: community outreach programmes; collaboration with local government and educational institutions; assembling numerous youth-led organisations for the common purpose of tackling climate crisis; developing a youth movement towards climate justice in Bangladesh; voicing support for a just transition to a climate- friendly society; all towards making sure that children and youth are at the forefront of the global climate change movement, co-creating solutions and occupying seats at the decision-making table at a policy-level, along with the negotiating process. As part of its advocacy strategies, YouthNet implements community outreach programmes to disseminate information on climate and disaster preparedness, safe water and health sanitation. A one-year action plan has been set in motion that includes community mobilisation, advocacy, and capacity-building, monitoring of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation activities.
Observer: Would you share your top three messages for youth and children?
Sohanur Rahman: Marking International Youth Day, My top three messages are young people should be meaningfully involved at the decision-making table from local, national and global level, engage themselves in project development, monitoring, evaluation learning, I mean in every stage.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh should appoint a youth adviser or ambassador for climate action and Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry can take a lead by establishing Children and Youth advisory board to engage young people meaningfully.
Take initiatives to empower children and young people on climate justice to become climate champions by solving their local climate related risks and problems. Increase investment in children, young people and their undertaken climate initiatives and promote innovative youth-centric solutions.
Observer: Thank you.
Sohanur Rahman: Thank you.