How youth have the power to Innovate4Climate

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How youth have the power to Innovate4Climate
18 October 2023
Mitik Ayalew Zegeye
Sudharshan Canagarajah
Ines Fernandes Da Silva Araujo
Kaia Rose


Youth at I4C 2023
© Asier Camacho Fernandez/World Bank


Youth are the vanguards of change, equipped with innovative skills, creativity, and the passion to take climate action. Young people’s commitment to protect our planet has the potential to catalyze movements, climate solutions, and the path towards a greener future.

Recognizing the significance of harnessing their commitment and enthusiasm for positive change, various platforms are now spotlighting their role. At the start of 2023, the Commonwealth Secretary General launched the Year of Youth initiative, dedicating the year to youth-led action for sustainable and inclusive development, with climate change taking center-stage in a variety of high-profile events. The recent Youth Engagement Forum organized by the NDC Partnership is another example, providing a platform for global youth climate leaders to share practical insights on meaningful youth engagement.

In a similar vein, the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate (I4C) 2023 conference, held in Bilbao from May 22-25, featured another edition of the Young Climate Innovators (YCI) Program. The YCI Program is a platform designed to inspire young professionals and students aged 18 – 35 to transform their passion into tangible actions by facilitating opportunities to learn and exchange ideas on their role in scaling-up climate action and climate-resilient recovery. In partnership with Connect4Climate (C4C) and the Youth-to-Youth's Global Youth Climate Network (GYCN), the 2023 edition of YCI was organized under the theme “Scaling climate action: intergenerational innovation, investment and impact.”

The YCI program at I4C 2023 brought together 30 in-person attendees and 685 virtual participants. It offered an opportunity for an impressive group of young climate innovators, entrepreneurs, and communicators, focused on sectors such as energy, agriculture, climate finance, nature-based solutions, green jobs and climate activism, to congregate, exchange ideas and discuss solutions leveraging their diverse backgrounds, and personal stories and experiences with climate change.

YCI voices at Innovate4Climate

Some of the youth leaders have built their own entrepreneurial ventures to help tackle climate-related issues in their communities. Dennel Florius, a climate entrepreneur from St. Lucia, is a great example. He co-founded EcoCarib, a green technology energy services company, and shared his perspective during the event.

Others are actively involved in global climate forums, such as the COP, representing their countries and ensuring youth have a seat at the table. Jeremy Raguain, a Youth4Climate delegate and former climate change and ocean advisor to Seychelles, shared his unique experience representing his country and advocating for small island developing states.

Young leaders focused on developing expertise in various aspects of climate policy to help shape future policymaking were also in attendance. Joice Mendez, a member of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, offered her insights on her advocacy work focused on transboundary cooperation in the water-energy-food nexus with an emphasis on indigenous peoples’ rights and energy justice.

You can learn more about these Young Climate Innovators and their initiatives in the list provided here.

Five key takeaways for youth ahead of COP28

The broad spectrum of voices brought to the table enriched the dialogue, fostering a multifaceted conversation infused with a myriad of viewpoints and perspectives. Several topics pertinent to the climate and youth engagement agenda were discussed, including five key issues involving youth in the run-up to COP28:

  1. Youth should identify their passion at the individual level and use what inspires them to drive change within current systems – it is well understood that while young people did not cause the climate crisis, they are invaluable champions of climate action, active change-makers, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers, who are listening to the science, and developing the solutions that can change the future of generations to come.

    To make an impact, young people need to be integrated in the current systems and frameworks in place and have a say in catalyzing change. Understanding the institutions, parties, and various actors that shape the current system can enable youth to have a seat at the table. Furthermore, it is crucial to equip youth with the knowledge and resources available to support them in learning about innovative climate solutions and avenues for participating in global youth-oriented platforms. This approach can help youth in positively influencing their local communities.

  2. Focus on the solutions – while problems related to the climate crisis are well-documented, there is limited discussion on the solutions. Communicating these solutions to policymakers is just as important as identifying them. One participant highlighted that while climate policy is one of the most important tools to drive solutions, few young people are involved in this area. This participant sees this as the next phase of the youth climate movement and shared their own experiences working with the International Emissions Trading Association supporting business and governments by advocating for markets-based climate solutions.  


  1. Leverage youth focused platforms for driving climate action – one youth innovator shared about her involvement with the Youth4Climate (Y4C) initiative co-led by the Government of Italy and UNDP, in partnership with Connect4Climate (C4C). Her contribution to the initiative included drafting the Youth4Climate Manifesto – a synthesis document bringing together the ideas of 400 young climate leaders and highlighting youth voices under four key thematic areas: Youth Driving Ambition, Sustainable Recovery, Non-State Actors’ Engagement, and Climate-Conscious Society.

    For her, platforms such as Y4C create an inclusive space for the youth community to nurture their ideas, showcase their solutions, and secure funding for their projects. These platforms are critical for further catalyzing youth engagement.


  1. Youth perspectives can be a vital part of international processes governing the global response to the climate crisis – The importance of involving youth in the current frameworks for addressing the climate issue was further cemented by one attendee who shared his experience and contribution towards the first Global Stocktake – an important process under the Paris Agreement to assess the global action on climate change to date and aimed at informing the next round of NDCs to be put forward in 2025. Coming from a small island developing state (SID), he emphasized how his background informed his contribution to the global stocktake, particularly on the loss and damages agenda. According to him, the last chance to keep 1.5 alive will be determined by the NDCs of 2025. As such, he is advocating for all parties and stakeholders to pay closer attention to the takeaways from the global stocktake leading up to COP28 – not just for the SIDs, but for the global south as a whole.


  1. Bridging the generational gap can unleash the power of young people – Intergenerational collaboration is a testament to the transformative potential of meaningful dialogue between generations. The conversation highlighted the importance of empowering institutions and relevant stakeholders to scale up their ambition and make sure that they foster a strategy where the voices of young people are heard and used as a unique tool for progress, exchange, collaboration, and action.


Overall, the YCI Program at I4C 2023 reflected invigorating creativity and vision imbued with youthful passion for preserving a climate future worthy of inheritance. The resounding theme of the 2023 YCI program was that now more than ever, youth are raising the ambition needed to address the existential issue of climate change with a focus on the solutions. As such, there is a need for more avenues and opportunities to empower the diverse perspectives, ideas and solutions coming from young climate leaders.

The main takeaways from the program session emphasized the importance of empowering and amplifying the voices of youth, addressing identified problems with practical solutions, and turning passion into action. However, taking effective action requires a clear plan with specific, measurable goals, taking into account the challenges within the geopolitical economy. This means being accountable and practical to make real progress in a world filled with competing interests as youth is driving efforts to forge a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

Find out more about upcoming youth-focused engagement opportunities by following Connect4Climate (C4C) and the Youth-to-Youth's Global Youth Climate Network (GYCN) as well as the 2024 edition of the Innovate4Climate conference. The recording of the YCI 2023 event can be found here.


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Youth at I4C 2023


Youth at I4C 2023


Youth at I4C 2023