In this article the Secretary of the Board of InterClimate Network (ICN), Tamara Inkster-Draper, reflects on the recent Climate Summit hosted by President Biden and the role of youth leaders in driving action on climate change.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Current (Creative Commons license)

Last week’s Climate Summit, hosted by US President Biden (22-23 April), was another step forward in the fight to solve the climate emergency. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the event, and high expectations on the new commitments we would see from major emitting countries, following the US return to the Paris Agreement and a diplomatic tour to key countries by US Climate Envoy John Kerry.

In the end, the Climate Summit was a good step forward – for the climate and on the road to COP26 – but didn’t deliver significant new action or commitments. We did see some more ambitious climate targets (National Determined Contributions, or NDCs), coal phase out and climate financing announcements from the US, UK, EU, China, Canada, Korea, and Japan. Analysis released by the Carbon Action Tracker shows that commitments made by governments since last September narrowed the 2030 emissions gap by around 12-14%. While not insignificant, and small steps in the right direction, we know the climate crisis will not be solved by hard won incremental increases. We need urgent and far greater action in this decisive decade.

For many, including me personally, the highlight of the US Climate Summit was a speech by Fridays for Future activist Xiye Bastida, who powerfully spoke truth to power. Xiye took the opportunity of a global stage to hold work leaders to account, to call on them to move from empty commitments to real and rapid action, in a way that is just and inclusive and protects the world’s most vulnerable. She clearly said that we already have all of the solutions we need and we must now get on and implement them; youth must participate in decision making spaces to help ensure a more inclusive, sustainable future.

Indeed, youth, and particularly young people in the UK, have a very important role to play in the coming months. COP26 can provide another opportunity for countries to take the next steps in delivering on their promises, and crucially to further enhance their ambition to address this crisis. Youth are the voice of the future, our leaders of the future, and are very well placed to encourage governments to take the opportunity to deliver cleaner, healthier, and safer futures for all.

I’m proud to be involved with a charity like ICN that helps educate and empower young people, and helps amplify their crucial voice. Through ICN programmes, young people are able to learn about those solutions that already exist for addressing climate change, as Xiye said, and how to implement them in their own communities, as well as find their voice to continue to speak truth to power to solve the climate crisis, all while becoming the leaders of tomorrow.