Global Summit 2022 [Session 4]: Voices of youth for a cleaner, greener future
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
On 12 October 2022, Climate Governance Initiative (CGI) hosted the Global Summit 2022: Ambition to Action, a 24-hour virtual conference spanning the globe and bringingtogether highly motivated board members and other eminent speakers who champion effective climate governance.
Climate Governance Malaysia is the secretariat for the ASEAN Climate Governance Network (ACGN) – which is supported by all institutes of directors in the region curated a series of 4 sessions for this 24-hour global summit.
The final session of the series was on Voices of youth for a cleaner, greener future.
Climate change will touch future generations the most. So it’s vital to understand their perspectives, expectations and hopes as well as what they plan to do with or without help from businesses and government leaders.
The session discussed on the role of youth, businesses and governments in reducing GHG emissions. How can the average person, who may feel powerless, contribute to change? Where do financial leaders see the most opportunity for youth to contribute? How can business leaders better accommodate youth perspectives and needs? How can youth help amplify efforts already underway?
The session featured the following distinguished speakers and panellists:
YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Economy), Malaysia (Keynote speaker)
Assad W Razzouk, CEO of Gurin Energy and Board member of ClientEarth (Keynote speaker)
Alex Lim, Youth Leader, Roots and Shoots Malaysia (Keynote speaker)
Sunita Rajakumar, President & Chairperson, Climate Governance Malaysia (Moderator)
Juliana Adam, CEO. Biji-biji, Malaysia (Panellist)
Nguyen Thi Quynh Anh, Senior Manager, Advisory Services, Net Zero, PwC Vietnam (Panellist)
TP Lim, President, Roots and Shoots, Malaysia (Panellist)
Souksaveuy Keotiamchanh, Founder, Zero Waste Laos (Panellist)
Keynote address by YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Economy), Malaysia
"Young people must be given a seat at the table for climate-related decision-making to be inclusive and all-encompassing. It is important for governments, corporations and other stakeholders to support and encourage these future leaders to actively participate in the global fight against climate change." YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Economy), Malaysia
Over the years, Malaysia has consistently embraced and prioritized sustainability in our national socio-economic development agenda. The 10th Malaysia Plan was formulated to promote long-term sustainability and prosperity in line with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
In the past 50 years, we have successfully transformed the Malaysian economy, raised the living standards of all Malaysians, alleviated poverty and provided quality and accessible health care and education to our people, not forgetting planetary health. Malaysia has been incorporating environmental and climate change considerations into its socioeconomic development policies, legislation, planning and strategies. That said, we must seek to continuously improve and never rest on our laurels.
The devastating consequences of climate change are threatening our day-to-day lives; this year, many parts of the world have been affected by extreme weather conditions. Both Europe and China suffered one of their worst droughts ever recorded. More recently countries in North America and Asia have been devastated by floods that resulted from typhoons and hurricanes. As part of the global community, Malaysia will continue to play its part in preventing as well as neutralizing threats that may arise from climate change.
Certainly, young people must be given a seat at the table for climate-related decision-making to be inclusive and all-encompassing.
Our planet is home to approximately 8 billion people, about 1.8 billion of whom are young people from the ages of 10 to 24. In ASEAN alone, we have about 213 million people in this age category. Despite being the largest generation of youth ever recorded, young people are often sidelined in the decision-making process. They are unfortunately seen as mere beneficiaries of the policies of today, rather than key stakeholders who can help formulate a better tomorrow: this must change.
Firstly, the youth must be encouraged to actively contribute to the current climate action framework and assist in building a greener future, as countries seek to achieve the respective nationally determined contributions (NDC targets). They must harness the skills and experiences of the youth who are actively participating in laudable initiatives such as volunteering with organizations and donating to environmental initiatives.
Secondly, the younger generation must be given the financial capability to realize the ideas and solutions. We must harness their creativity in developing green products and services. Governments, investors and businesses can support these youth-led climate change initiatives by providing grants debt financing, venture capital or in-kind support.
Certainly, young people must be given a seat at the table for climate-related decision-making to be inclusive and all-encompassing. Youth inclusion should not be enough though, it is important for governments, corporations and other stakeholders to support and encourage these future leaders to actively participate in the global fight against climate change.
Empowering young people is key to our goal of tackling climate change. Neglecting young people means neglecting a transformational opportunity to lay the foundation for a peaceful and sustainable future.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the UN Development Program (UNDP) for providing strong support to youth-led to action and meaningful youth engagement across the globe. UNDP has been promoting the rights of future generations and amplifying young people’s voices in decisions on climate action and the future of their communities through capacity-building, political participation and support to innovators.
In ASEAN, recognition of the younger generation as an essential partner in the fight against climate change was highlighted during the 16th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment, and in the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties and the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in October 2021.
Keynote address by Alex Lim Youth Leader, Roots and Shoots Malaysia
"Youth can be the force for sustainable development and a key agent for social change, economic growth and technological innovation when provided with the right opportunity." Alex Lim
Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged between 15 – 24 years old accounting for 16% of the global population. In the ASEAN, youth is defined as those from 15 to 34 years old. This represents one-third of the combined population of ASEAN.
This means for ASEAN businesses, one-third of your customers will start demanding sustainable options for products and services and this will very likely impact your business strategy. A recent study done by Credit Suisse Research Institute has indicated that Gen Z and millennials in emerging economies are more likely to buy sustainable products.
But youth is not just contributing as a consumer. Many youths have stepped up to contribute directly to sustainable development. For example, in Thailand, there are options where you can purchase products by bringing empty containers of shampoo, shower gel, and detergent to refill. Essentially providing an alternative for the Thais to reduce their waste. In Malaysia, we have a Malaysian youth delegation which is a local youth climate movement focusing on raising awareness of climate policies among Malaysians, keeping Malaysian leaders and international institutions accountable for their climate promises and policies.
We also have an individual from the Philippines, Marinel Sumook Ubaldo who is a climate activist. She has helped to organise the first youth climate strike in her country. She was also the country coordinator for the UN climate conference of youth in Glasgow last year. The examples given demonstrate the capability of youth to contribute meaningfully to a country’s sustainable development.
How do we get more youth to be involved and eventually integrate them into the overall sustainable development agenda in the country?
Firstly, we need to turn awareness into action. Access to information is no longer the same with the presence of digital technologies. Youth who had grown up with access to these digital technologies has long been exposed to all sort of information. The Southeast Asia climate outlook 2021 survey report showed that more than 70% of youth rely on online news sites, social media, online influencers and public figures to get news on climate change.
Approximately 75% of youth in Southeast Asia have responded that they recognised the importance of climate change and believe that it is a serious and immediate threat to the well-being of the respective country. But for the youth to translate this awareness into action there is a need to be a more explicit call to action on how and where they can contribute. Government and corporates can support this in many forms among them is increased engagement with university students and high school leavers’ on career opportunities available in the space of climate change. It can start by developing and supporting more programs focusing on the theme of climate change within schools and universities to build up talents for the future. This engagement can help you narrow down their preferred career within the sustainability field as there are also a lot of options to choose from.
Other than that, career options should also be made more accessible and thus, online platforms such as Green Job Malaysia are a very great way to close the talent gap for a greener economy. But contributing to a greener economy does not necessarily need to come from a specific green job or specific career pursuit, it is also about how everyday businesses integrate environmental considerations into their strategy and integration of environmental considerations can bring economic and social benefits when done right.
A good example is the Mata Kail Project in Indonesia which train young people and SMEs in terms of business management on fish handling and processing technique using energy-efficient technology. As a result youth SME business persons who implemented sustainable technologies experienced nearly double income compared to those who only adopted improvement in business management.
We are halfway through the timeline to achieving 2030 sustainable development goals. The central principle of the 2030 agenda is no one will be left behind. In the process of achieving a greener future, it is important for us to also look at equitable access to resources for the people in the country. According to the first ASEAN youth development Index, there are huge gaps in terms of enrolment in secondary education, digital native rate and access to improved sanitation facilities. Oftentimes these group are those from marginalised communities and there is a very good chance that environmental protection may not be on top of their agenda. But can we really blame them if they are still struggling with putting food on their table? Unfortunately, this group is also the one that is typically suffering from the climate crisis and environmental pollution. Understandably the government is already working towards closing the gap. This is a great opportunity to get more youth to be involved.
Organizations such as Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative provide more grants for youth in ASEAN to tackle environmental economic and social issues within their communities. More corporate can also get on this by providing monetary support to different youth-led initiatives, especially where their business operates. To make the initiatives more impactful, this funding should go to a more established organization, where the organisation can act as a mentor to this youth when running their initiatives thus ensuring a long-lasting impact of the initiatives that they are running. This opportunity will also allow youth to transform their passion into actionable solutions.
In the process of developing meaningful and need-based solutions for the communities, the youth will be challenged to use the hard and soft skills that they may have. While awareness of the sustainability issue is important, youth will also need good leadership and critical thinking skills to create a lasting impact in the community that they are working with. The leadership skills that youth developed through this process will go a long way as the youth will be the future leader of the country. We need more leaders that are environmentally sound and focus on the long-term benefits rather than succumbing to the short-term gain.
In summary, youth can be the force for sustainable development and a key agent for social change, economic growth and technological innovation when provided with the right opportunity. Investing in the youth is not just about investing in the future because great solutions have been developed by the youth itself today. It is also important for us to talk about immediate solutions for present issues. As the impact of the climate crisis materialises today itself, no point talking about a greener future if we could not adapt to the changing climate today. At the end of the day, it requires a consorted effort from the whole society regardless of age group to achieve a greener future while navigating through the climate crisis. It will be difficult but I believe if you are persistent and continue building new pipelines to step up and contribute to a cleaner greener future, we will be able to make it happen.
Keynote address by Assad W Razzouk, CEO of Gurin Energy and Board member of ClientEarth
"The climate litigation space boomed historically since the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP 21. Today, there are 1,600 active lawsuits around the world all of which focused on climate." Assad W Razzouk
In 2021, the German Constitutional Court and the Dutch Court made two monumental decisions with regard to climate litigation. Within the space of four weeks, Germany’s constitutional court ordered the German government to significantly accelerate the country’s action on climate change. Within those same four weeks, a Dutch court ordered an oil company - Shell to reduce its climate-warming emissions by 45% by 2030. The court said the company must take responsibility for its own carbon emissions as well as those of its entire supply chain.
The German government obliged and moved right away to implement the court’s decision while Shell appealed and to this day the appeal is still in process. The reasons these two decisions were monumental at the time they were issued is because first, no country had yet been ordered by its courts to comprehensively step up on climate action and no oil company either had been ordered by any court to shrink by almost half, that’s why they were monumental and these were just the tip of the global climate litigation action that is taking place around us.
The climate litigation space boomed historically since the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP 21. Today, there are 1,600 active lawsuits around the world all of which focused on climate.
There are a few types of lawsuits when it comes to climate.
1. Lawsuit filed against listed companies.
The company itself accuses them of selling either physical or financial products with misleading tags and without adequately disclosing the climate risks attached to these products. For example, in the UK, after one of these cases, BP had to withdraw an advertising campaign with the tagline “Possibilities Everywhere” because it misleading the public about the scale of its green portfolio and was playing down its dirty natural gas initiatives. Shell was rebuffed by the Dutch advertising watchdog on similar grounds.
2. Lawsuits filed against polluters for violating people’s constitutional rights such as the right to life or health.
In 2021, the Hague District Court ruled that the Dutch government wasn’t taking enough action to protect the right to life. It was a very important precedent because it set the stage for other courts in other countries to point it back as precedent.
In 2020, in Portugal, six children filed a lawsuit in a European Court of Human Rights against 33 European countries for threatening their rights to life by moving too slowly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a right to life and a right to health basis for that lawsuit which is still playing out in the courts.
3. Lawsuits filed against gas and coal companies to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
In Pakistan for example, a seven-year-old girl represented by her father sued to stop particularly dirty coal fields from being developed on the ground that these mining activities will drastically increase Pakistan’s emissions and be catastrophic for future generations.
In Colombia, the Supreme Court ruled in 2018, on similar grounds in favour of 25 young plaintiffs seeking to ban mining and oil exploration. In Columbia 473 oil concessions were effectively blocked because of the litigation.
4. Lawsuits filed against the legislation
The lawsuit filed against legislation is to enforce existing legislation which is on the books because quite often legislation against pollution is either not or badly enforced. An example from Europe is the French government, who brokered the Paris Climate Accord, was sued by one of its sub-jurisdictions, which was particularly exposed to climate change, on the basis that it wasn’t doing enough to fight back against climate change and the council reminded the government that it was failing in its commitment to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030.
5. Lawsuits filed against Fiduciaries and Company Directors
Climate lawsuits are also expanding to fiduciaries – people who managed money on behalf of others and to company directors directly and these are also emerging trends. In the trailblazing lawsuit, ClientEarth a London-based NGO notified Shell in 2022 that it would commence legal proceedings not against Shell but against the company’s 13 directors directly (the individuals) over the mismanagement of climate risks and the board’s failure to adopt a strategy that is truly aligned with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and that is playing out in the English Courts.
6. De-listing of companies from stock exchanges and listing bonds.
There is no continent spared from a climate litigation perspective.
There are lawsuits for the de-listing of companies from stock exchanges and de-listing bonds under pressure from climate lawsuits and non-compliance with climate disclosure rules.
In the climate change space, what we’ve seen, again and again, is that what is radical is to have a track record of becoming normal in very short order. It’s hard to remember the days when Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocario-Cortez were little-known activists or Extinction Rebellion had yet to disrupt commuters but that was only in 2019, three years ago, nobody knew them and now they are basically everywhere.
Germany’s Climate Plan for Net Zero by 2045 which was a direct result of that German Court case was delivered in four weeks had effectively transformed Germany even before the additional push to Green Germany that was given by the Ukraine war. So expect the unexpected and expected probably sooner than you think.
What these actions have in common is that they seek to hold power - government and corporations - to account. Out of 1550 cases worldwide mentioned at the moment, the majority are in the United States (77%) and that is followed by Australia, the UK and the EU. And there are many more in EU countries as well as Ukraine and more are being added constantly. This is the case across all continents.
There is no continent spared from a climate litigation perspective. In Asia for example, while China is conspicuously absent, there are climate litigation actions in India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. Similar story in Africa where multiple countries have climate litigation cases that are going through court cases.
These cases aren’t about whether we should be using fossil fuels. Reasonable observers accept that there is a minimum amount of fossil fuels which we will continue to use for critical needs for example in medical equipment. However, the lawsuits matter because of the key questions that they are trying to answer ranging from who is going to pay for all the damages around us from burning oil gases and coal to who is responsible for the fact that we’ve known for 40 years that it is an environmentally destructive product but haven’t really done anything about it and that is about the entire spectrum of outcomes which is being tested by these lawsuits around the world.
There’s a lot of money fighting back against the lawsuit principally from oil and gas companies. This is not because they’re terrified but because it is a matter of public record that they are aware of the environmental damage of their products but choose to hide that damage or at the minimum do absolutely nothing about it. For example, oil companies have been building defences against sea level rise on their offshore oil rigs and refineries for decades.
It is very clear that they’ve known what’s going on. Imagine what would happen the minute an oil executive from Exxon or Shell testifies in open court that they knowingly mislead the public about climate threats since at least 1990. You can just play out the consequences and there will be massive. This is not an impossible outcome, because that is exactly what happened with the tobacco companies who denied effectively product responsibility for decades but then suddenly had to pay for it.
Oil and gas fines will be several orders of magnitude greater than those of tobacco companies and these will start playing through the capital markets, so the price of securities of these sectors is yet [to be affected] but it will be by 2025 or 2030. While tobacco harms users and those around them, the damage from oil, gas and coal which once again was hidden by oil and gas companies, as a matter of public record affects the entire world and every living thing in it. So it is a different order of magnitude.
Therefore, you can expect that in time, climate litigation will create large financial liabilities for not only oil and gas companies but many other companies that use fossil fuels in their products. This is why such a push now in the supply chain to power manufacturing with renewable energy. One of the key trends that are shaping the change in renewable energy in Asia.
The following questions were discussed at the panel discussion:
1. How boards and businesses can take into account the voices of youth for a cleaner, greener future?
The psychology of young people today and the way they are receiving information and data about a corporation is something that corporations should be cognisant of and think about deeply in terms of how they can engage and seek to understand the youth better.
Young people of today (individuals below the age of 25) are very well informed about issues of climate change and climate crisis. They are quite demanding in terms of what they believe the adults should be doing from corporate, community leaders and from government standpoints. Boards need to take care and be mindful of the psychology of young people as they are the current and future consumers and staff members of your company as well as the future leaders of government, corporations or civic society organisations.
With the upcoming population of young people who are very caring about the environment and who demand solutions, explanations and justice in terms of the climate issues that surround them, businesses must take all these into consideration to make an informed decision from a corporate standpoint.
The psychology of young people today and the way they are receiving information and data about a corporation is something that corporations should be cognisant of and think about deeply in terms of how they can engage and seek to understand the youth better. This is because the youth get information and data and form their opinions about a brand from digital platforms like TikTok and not from the traditional newspapers or magazines that corporations spend money on advertising.
Youth can be the pioneer in climate change both at work as well as in their everyday lives. Anyone can contribute to climate action through our day-to-day activities such as turning off the light when not using it, not using plastic bags, planting trees and recycling are examples of simple actions that we can do on daily basis. As a consumer, we consume a lot of things every day like food, clothes, and transportation. We can become responsible consumers by using ethical fashion, walking and cycling instead of driving as well as using green products to reduce carbon emissions.
Be creative and innovative at work. Leaders should engage young people in making a difference in the climate on the job they do on a daily basis. Empower young people to apply climate sustainable change by thinking and working more efficiently and effectively through innovation.
An example from Vietnam, a worker at a wooden doors and windows factory proposed to the management the idea of turning wooden waste into other products like keychains, pens holders and tissue boxes instead of throwing away the waste. Companies can also be an advisors or consultants to increase client awareness of climate change, ESG and Net Zero. Some clients may never hear about net zero thus, it is our responsibility to help raise awareness, and advise companies on how to measure carbon emissions through the value chain by identifying climate change risks and opportunities.
Tap on the energy of the young people. Young people are very energetic and powerful. For example, in Lao, almost 60% of the population is young people thus, if the mindset and the behaviour of the young people, can be changed, the future of Lao to be greener is possible. Currently, there are gaps between the business entities, government and youth. These groups of people whether in government or the private sector should work together to close the gap.
With regard to the movements of young people, in terms of environmental action. There are currently gaps and the challenge is that they could not get enough support from the business entity or the government. Businesses or the private sector could consider supporting the youth by creating awareness, CSR projects or work that can provide opportunities for young people to take a movement. Support or create projects in their community that will encourage them to lead on environmental protection and climate change as well as build the capacity of the young people on how they can learn and gain experience at a young age to be the sustainability leader in the future. This is the area that we really want to see in Lao as well as the region for corporations to work together with stakeholders to empower the youth.
Corporations should think about helping the youth to build their existing skills and develop them to become sustainability-driven entrepreneurs. Youth normally have a social or environmental impact that they are incorporating into their projects, businesses, and start-ups. It is this impact that drives the youth to get into entrepreneurship or to have their own start-up. It is always very heart-warming and very motivating to see young people following their passion and ultimately sharing the same passion and drive to create change. Due to generational upbringing, exposure to social media and tech advancements, youth are exposed to and are taking into account the educational exposure that they have on climate change, environmental and social challenges. All of these combined give the youth today the edge and also the advantage to be able to think in a more innovative and disruptive kind of manner. Being young for them really is to their advantage because it allows them to be a risk taker, they are able to use the energy and dynamism that they naturally possess and channel this to positive impacts.
Youths prefer to work with companies that share the same values as them. The benefit of working with the younger group is that they are highly creative in the way they solved challenges. They always keep in mind the positive change that they can create and are not afraid of making changes. One of the important traits of youths is that they are very agile. They adapt to the program and this allows them to quickly change strategies if it isn’t working.
In summary, how businesses can incorporate youth into their own mission towards a greener future, is by providing them with the platform to nurture their disruptive ideas towards creating impacts. This will help to promote and grow the youth’s ideas and it could potentially be adapted as one of the innovative solutions for the company. This will not only help with talent acquisition and retention but also help grow the company and make sure that it is aligned and create impacts towards ESG.
2. What would you say to businesses and boards of directors who are still hesitating and betting on society not succeeding on climate change?
For any sustainable change to happen, everyone needs to be on board to do their part. Everyone has a role to play in this climate crisis.
Despite being a crisis informed by science and decades of universal acknowledgement that we need to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental destruction, that earth simply cannot sustain both population growth and economic growth as we understand it, we are still far behind the curve – Last year’s Global Stocktake indicates we are on track for 2.7C of warming, we have more than 50% chance of hitting 1.5C warming in the next year.
What is ahead of us is likely to be arduous and difficult. In the Malaysian context, the direct experience of the climate crisis has become more and more acute in the last couple of years, for example, people can no longer predict the rainy seasons or dry seasons. This is something that Dr Jane Goodall, Founder of Roots and Shoots said the reasons why she works with youth is because youth has an indomitable spirit that is inherent in all humans but especially strong among young people because either it is through ignorance or just by the nature of their age and the place they are in their life stage, they have an immense capacity for hope, innovations for receiving new ideas, very resilient, agile and open to change. Corporations should harness this amazing energy that is inherent in young people. This is something that corporations can tap into.
Youth are part of the ecosystem and small actions can lead to large impacts. The business activity of a company in one country can impact the life of other people in another country and one action today can lead to positive or negative consequences in the future. The future depends on our current decision. Climate impact does not choose to impact whether the poor or rich countries, everyone and every business in the world will be impacted by the climate. We also rely on nature so if we don’t start changing, everyone will get impacted by climate crisis. We must also think about the next generation.
For any sustainable change to happen, everyone needs to be on board to do their part. Everyone has a role to play in this climate crisis. The youth will start their own businesses and start-ups will create environmental and social impacts but we must also understand the impact that larger businesses and corporations can bring if they were to create a small shift in climate change. Boards of directors and decision-makers must understand the influence that they have in this matter.
On top of making the organisation shift towards running a sustainable business, it is also important to provide support to the other players in the ecosystem who are also trying to make an impact. This ties very closely to Goal 17 of the SDGs on partnership.
To create an impactful change, we must work with each other. The Board of directors within the company must look towards the larger ecosystems. What role are you playing or what role are you willing to play to do your part to combat climate change? Look towards whom you can work or collaborate with that will bring the benefit or impact for both you