Shakti Ramkumar: Why Young People Force Systems Change

On Wednesday December 11 Shakti took part in the panel on Ambition through National Action: Successes in System Transformation and Sectoral Decarbonization. She spoke on the role of youth in forcing systems change.

Background and Context: Science is clear  – to stay compatible with a 1.5°C world, we must end new coal and peak carbon emissions by 2020, cut global emissions in half by 2030, and cut our emissions completely by 2050. And in the meantime, we must define specific adaptation actions that reduce climate vulnerability for people and nature. In order to achieve such shifts, we must pursue systemic transformation across sectors of our economy. 

The IPCC outlines the following key transitions – to be pursued concurrently. CEP’s sectoral and ambition work should align to these four transitions accordingly:

  • Land & Natural Systems
  • Energy Systems
  • Urban Systems (including Transport and Infrastructure)
  • Industrial Systems 

Shakti’s points on why young people force systems change:

Young people recognize global inequities and root causes – We often hear that this generation of youth is the most globally connected generation in history – usually with regards to social media. This also means they become aware of inequities from an early age, and of their root causes. When we see the hundreds of thousands of migrants from Central and Latin America flee their countries only to be imprisoned at the US border, we see that that is linked to the climate crisis and will only get worse. Many people are fleeing drought and food insecurity. When we see Indigenous nations in Canada facing violence or being displaced due to energy development projects, that is part of the climate crisis. We also see that the communities who have done the least to contribute to climate change are the most vulnerable to dealing with its impacts – so If we don’t talk about climate justice as human rights, we won’t be able to move forward with solutions, particularly for communities across the global south.

At Student Energy, one of the things we’ve noticed from our youth network is that they see decarbonizing the energy system as a tool to address many of the other social inequities that contribute to climate change. For young people, the energy transition also has to achieve goals like economic and racial equity, justice for Indigenous peoples, and protection of natural systems. I see this way of analyzing the system and attempting to simultaneously create structural changes across different sectors as something that sets this youth climate movement apart from previous environmental movements.

Young people raise ambition – I’m sure you’ve noticed that the level of urgency in the youth climate movement is unlike anything we see in other spaces. Part of this is driven by frustration, by deep anxiety for an increasingly uncertain future. But the urgency is also driven by the belief that we can have a different kind of system that is equitable for all. It’s too late for moderate, incremental solutions. It’s too late for siloed solutions that address only part of the problem.

Why they can’t do it alone – Young people want to be part of delivering the systems solutions at the pace we need to address the climate crisis – but they can’t do it alone. We’ve seen in Student Energy’s work over and over again that what young people are lacking is not innovative capacity or enthusiasm, it’s the necessary financial resources, access to mentorship, and access to barrier-free skill building opportunities that they need to be able to take action on energy. Through our work, we try to bridge some of these gaps”

Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.