The pursuit of just energy transitions cannot be successful without the active involvement of youth for two main reasons. Firstly, energy transition planning processes must acknowledge the intergenerational aspects of all climate action and consider the rights of young people and future generations. And secondly, the skills that will make energy transitions possible will be provided largely by today’s youth – for example, many of the >600,000 additional solar industry workers that Europe needs to train by 2030 are currently in secondary school. If we fail to raise their interest in contributing to a just energy transition, we will not succeed.
Through a mentoring programme and online course, UNIDO and the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET) are strengthening the capacity of the Gender and Youth Focal Points of the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres (GN-SEC) to develop and promote youth-inclusive and gender-just energy policies and programmes. The Focal Points explored challenges and opportunities for youth engagement jointly with youth representatives who had also volunteered and produced valuable content on youth engagement for the centres.
For example, the Caribbean Centre for Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) launched an Energy Innovation Challenge for primary and secondary school students in 2020, and also conducts school visits and supports the inclusion of energy issues in the curricula. The Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) in the Middle East and North Africa has its Arab Programme for Sustainable Energy Youth (APSEY), through which it recruits young professionals for paid internships to increase their knowledge of an interest in regional energy issues. The South Africa Development Community Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) in Southern Africa has organized a webinar series for young people, to raise their awareness of the need for energy transitions and for career opportunities in renewable energy.
During the discussions, focal points agreed that there is still a need to engage youth more effectively in driving just energy transitions. Challenges they reported include a lack of specialized communications capacity, which would be helpful in disseminating the right messages through the right channels to reach youth. They also mentioned that they would like to have more capacity to conduct follow-ups once they have engaged groups of young people, whether these are interns or webinar attendees.
Participants also mentioned that funding should be available to engage young people as youth advisors or ambassadors, as these activities take significant time, yet compensation is not always provided. Compensating young people for their efforts would not only be fair, but also increase diversity and inclusion, as many young people particularly from marginalized backgrounds or from low-income countries cannot afford to work for free.
To support the Regional Sustainable Energy Centres and other organizations in mainstreaming youth issues to enhance the effectiveness of their strategies and programmes, the International Vienna Energy and Climate Forum Youth Advisory Group (YAG) created a Guidebook that compiles best practices and reflects on successful youth engagement in inclusive and sustainable industrial development.
The Guidebook aims to help organizations and programmes such as this one to meaningfully engage with youth in the context of energy, climate change and industrial development. This practical guide will be launched at the Forum. The multi-stakeholder event will highlight action-oriented steps to promote inclusiveness and the empowerment of young people. Stay tuned!