“This years commemoration should focus not only on youth participation and striving for action on climate change mitigation and adaptation but more towards youth participation in sustainable development. Young Namibian men and women are valuable and committed partners in the effort to achieve the Millenium Development Goals, Vision 2030, and the National Development Plan.
“Young people bring fresh, innovative thinking to longstanding development concerns. We are approaching the mid-point in the race to achieve the Millenium Development Goals and to implement strategies for the National Development Plan. Their energy and idealism can help make up for lost ground and achieve our development goals in full and on time,” explains Kauna Schroder, who is the Principal Project Cordinator and Advisor to the Environmental Commissioner’s office.
It is interesting to note that there is an existing network of young Namibians who strive to tackle issues relating to climate change. The Namibian Youth Coalition on Climate Change (NYCCC) was set up by the Namibian government through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and is a network of youth groups, educational institutions, and governmental departments all acting on climate change issues. It was founded through the Africa Adaptation Project Namibia (AAP NAM), which is a project implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia, and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, with funding from the Government of Japan.
The coalition is set to be a medium in which young Namibians become the change agents toward a climate resilient and carbon responsible nation, and the recent interest expressed by the National Youth Council injects a new spirit of innovation.
Schroder challenged the Namibian government to honour the international commitment endorsed by the World Programme of Action for youth to include young people in climate change programmes.
“We must fulfill our obligations to young people. On the international level, the World Programme of Action for youth asks governments to consider the contributions of young people to all policies affecting climate change. Governments must honour this commitment. They must also increase the financial, educational, and technical support made available to young people to help them realise their potential,” she added.
Although Namibia as a country has contributed little to climate change, it is a country situated to be among the worst affected by the global catastrophe, hence there is an urgent need for young Nambians to stand united to find ways to adapt to the country’s changing climate.
Mandela Kapere, the Executive Chairperson of the National Youth Council, concurred with recently appointed Environmental Commissioner Theofilus Nghitila, adding that it was the responsibility of youth to fight the environmental challenges that the country is facing.
“Climate change issues are the most challenging and pressing questions of our times. We have different and changing weather patterns, and young people need to be empowered so that they understand and act. As young people we should continue to understand climate change. I am confident that all young people will agree with me that the National Youth Council has done a great job this year. There has to be youth action for climate change adaptation and mitigation,” says Kapere.
A recent, unpublicized research project carried out by this reporter has revealed that most Namibian youth are not aware of the impact that climate change has.
“I only know that climate change has something to do with trees, wildlife, water, and protecting the environment,” said a 3rd year student at the Polytechnic of Namibia.
Perhaps the recently announced programmes are coming at the right time.
Observational records and model projections released by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change clearly show that 75-250 million people in Africa are projected to face increased water stress by 2020 due to climate change; the average sea level is expected to rise by about 50 cm by 2100 and about 70 million people in Africa's coastal areas could face the risk of flooding by 2080.
It is estimated that by 2100, parts of sub-saharan Africa are likely to become the most vulnerable, showing likely agricultural losses of between 2 and 7% of GDP, and by 2050 the average rice, wheat, and maize yields will decline by up to 14%, 22%, and 5%, respectively.
This poses a serious challenge to social and economic development, particularly because the economies of most African countries depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, energy, and tourism.
Global climate change will undoubtedly affect Namibia’s vast poor majority, hence the need to inform young people about its effects and positively engage them in ways of dealing with the catastrophe.