Events across COP26 on Friday focused on harnessing the expertise of young people and putting their views directly to the negotiators and officials working to agree on global action on climate change. Twenty-three countries at the weekend committed to making national climate education pledges including net-zero schools and putting climate at the heart of their national curricula.

This follows a meeting between young climate leaders in Glasgow with negotiators, officials, and ministers from across the world, making their voices heard and demanding the action needed to prevent catastrophic climate change in our lifetimes. The education ministers agreed to put forward national climate education pledges, ranging from decarbonising the school sector to developing school resources.

“The voices of young people must be heard and reflected in these negotiations here at COP. The actions and scrutiny of young people are key to us keeping 1.5 alive and creating a net-zero future,” said Alok Sharma, COP26 president. Sharma said: “I am also aware of the fear and anxiety many of them feel about the future of the planet, including my own children. That is why we must act on the COY16 Global Youth Position Statement from COY16 and the manifesto from the Milan Youth4Climate Summit.”

The event also unveiled a new statement titled, ‘learn for our planet: act for the climate,’ which committed countries to revisit progress made on their pledges in advance of COP27. The UK also announced a new £85,000 research grant to support the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre to produce better information on the education needs of refugee children and enable a more effective international response.

The announcement was made by Helen Grant MP, special envoy for Girls’ Education, at an event with Sierra Leone’s Minister for Education, David Sengeh, Education Cannot Wait, and UNHCR. At the event, the UK announced its draft Sustainability and Climate Change strategy to equip and empower young people with the skills they need to drive the future of climate action.

This includes the introduction of a Primary Science Model Curriculum, to include an emphasis on nature and the recognition of species, supporting the youngest pupils to develop conservation skills. Education ministers from around the world also pledged to do the same with nations such as South Korea, Albania, and Sierra Leone pledging to put climate change at the heart of their curricula.

The day was co-chaired by YOUNGO, the Official Children’s and Youth constituency of the UNFCCC which opened with a session called Unifying for Change: Global Youth voice at COP26. YOUNGO also presented the COY16 Global Youth Position statement, representing the views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from across the world. The statement presented their priorities directly to ministers, including action on climate finance, mobility, and transportation, through to wildlife protection conservation.

“YOUNGO has been working closely with the UK Presidency and the UNFCCC Secretariat to co-design Youth and Public Empowerment Day. We successfully profiled global youth voices through the COY16 Global Youth Statement, and brought together four generations to share best practice examples of achieving climate justice collectively,” said Heeta Lakhani and Marie-Claire Graf, YOUNGO Global Focal Points.

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