Trinidadian youth insists on strong role in climate change negotiations — Global Issues

Small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and heavy rains that cause flooding, rising sea temperatures that affect coral reefs and fisheries, and more frequent hurricanes that destroy homes and livelihoods. These countries often suffer from fragile economic conditions and do not have the means to help their citizens cope with these problems.

In the face of such uncertainty, many young people are determined that they want and need urgent change to ensure a world worth living in. . They lead strikes, protests, and demonstrations around the world, equipping them with the skills they need to create change. solution.

At a coffee shop in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. united nations newsTo find out what Trinidadians think about the climate emergency and how we can respond to it, we met with some of the country’s leading young people on environmental issues.

Priyanka Lara, Teenage Climate Activist, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern Caribbean Youth Advocate represents Trinidad and Tobago at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Climate and ocean scientist Joshua Prentice has worked with the United Nations on projects related to chemicals and waste. Zafia Alexander is the 18-year-old founder of a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to raising awareness of the climate crisis and elevating the voices of Caribbean youth on the international stage.

United Nations News/Brianna Rowe

Priyanka Lara is a teenage climate activist from Trinidad and a youth advocate for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Eastern Caribbean.

UN News: What inspired you to advocate for change?

Priyanka Lara: I grew up in a beautiful region rich in biodiversity and have seen the destruction and damage caused by storms, especially after Hurricane Maria hit the Leeward Islands in 2017.

I think it’s often said that individual actions don’t have a big impact. But it’s true. That’s why I advocate individual action and empowering young people and showing them that we have power.

Joshua Prentice: Discussions that will shape our future are taking place right now, and our voices must be included in every negotiation. This is why I decided to attend the climate conference and ensure youth representation, especially from my region.

Zafia Alexander:For me, it was an excruciatingly passionate geography teacher. They helped me understand why climate change is an important topic in Trinidad and Tobago.

Also, I was angry. No one is doing anything, no one my age is talking about this issue, and it seems like young people are not included in the important decisions that affect us. I did.

Joshua Prentice is a climate and ocean scientist from Trinidad.

United Nations News/Brianna Rowe

Joshua Prentice is a climate and ocean scientist from Trinidad.

UN News: You told me that not enough young people are participating in climate advocacy. Why do you think that is?

Joshua Prentice: I think this is a byproduct of not pushing it further in the growing school system. You can also feel that from your parents. We need to teach children good recycling habits and why they should care about the environment. However, thanks to the internet and social media, young people are starting to become more actively involved.

Zafia Alexander:This is why education and advocacy are so important. Too many Trinidadians do not realize the severity of the crisis or how it is directly impacting Trinidad and Tobago and other small island developing States. It’s not part of the syllabus.

Joshua Prentice: And many young farmers don’t understand how climate change is affecting their crops and land, including through droughts and floods.

Zafia Alexander: It is ironic that we are so affected, but many of us wonder why we are seeing changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, and rising temperatures, or whether humans are primarily responsible. do not understand.

Priyanka Lara: Yes, it’s the same marginalized coastal communities that are hit by flash floods every year. Homes were washed away, belongings were lost, schools were destroyed, and young children were left without education because they lacked the resources to rebuild. Sometimes they are forced to give up their education, or are forced into child marriage or child labor.

Zafia Alexander is a teenage climate change activist and founder of an environmental NGO from Trinidad.

United Nations News/Brianna Rowe

Zafia Alexander is a teenage climate change activist and founder of an environmental NGO from Trinidad.

UN News: Some activists are calling for legal changes to address the climate crisis. Is this something you are interested in pursuing?

Joshua Prentice: As someone who practices environmental law, I can tell you that updating laws is very difficult. Changing the law requires a massive public outcry. But in recent years, thanks to public pressure, we have made some progress.

However, it may be helpful to contact directly the ministry that directly oversees this area. Youth activists should contact them and request that their concerns be raised with Cabinet. There are also NGOs in Trinidad that interact directly with ministers. By engaging with them, you increase your chances of getting your opinion heard.

Priyanka Lara: We need support from ministries, policy makers and governments. We also need the support of young people, educators, and housewives. It requires a collective effort.

I think accountability comes from the voices of young people. We remain accountable to governments, policy makers, NGOs and various organizations. But I think we also need to acknowledge the good that has already been done and acknowledge it to empower people and motivate them to continue.

UN News: Trinidad has benefited from oil reserves for many years. Should countries stop developing this fossil fuel resource?

Joshua Prentice: As advocates of sustainable development and clean energy, we think it should stop. But I also exist in the real world. This country has a lot of work to do, and we can’t afford to abandon our biggest source of revenue, oil and gas, overnight.

Steps are being taken to diversify the country and move away from dependence on oil and gas, and I believe we want to move further in this direction.

Priyanka Lara: For the sake of people and biodiversity, we need to make that transition within the next few decades, even if it takes longer than we would like.

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