Inaugural National Youth Climate Change Summit 2023

The Namibian youth held their inaugural National Youth Climate Change Summit and the second Local Conference of Youth from the 11th to 13 July 2023 under the theme “empowering youth for climate action”.  The national event was attended by 42 Namibian youth representatives from all 14 regions including national youth-led networks and organizations to deliberate on climate change issues in the country and together leverage their voices towards climate action while raising awareness on the updated NDC framework and understanding their roles in its implementation.

The Summit was fully endorsed by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and by the UNFCCC Children and Youth Constituency (YOUNGO) LCOY Working Group and organized by the National Youth Climate Action Network of Namibia and the National Youth Council. It was made possible by support from development partners including the European Union delegation in Namibia and the German government through the GIZ Climate Change and Inclusive Use Project, the British High Commission Windhoek, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Namibia, as well as local partner Triple Capital.

During the official opening ceremony, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Hon. Pohamba Shifeta through his keynote address delivered by the Environmental Commissioner Mr Timo Mufeti, acknowledged the Namibian youth’s effort to come together to discuss issues concerning climate change impacts and vulnerabilities in the country and together work towards solutions that will address the impacts. He further assured the youth his support in this undertaking and urged them to develop a feasible National Youth Statement on climate change, which will represent the voices of Namibian youth in addressing climate change.

Ms Charlotte Fenton, the Deputy British High Commissioner to Namibia, emphasized that “the impact of youth raising demands on climate change cannot be underestimated” and that the development of the National Youth Statement is an important way in which the youth voices can be heard and act urgently to take climate action. During a panel discussion Ms Louise Brown, Director of Triple Capital encouraged the youth to take leadership and be innovative and creative and provide much-needed transformation energy to drive change. Ms Brown also emphasized the urgency to invest in climate resilient development through investments to address in the challenges faced by vulnerable communities. She further added that the private sector has the potential to be part of the solution. However, the role of public financiers like development banks and government must be to de-risk and unlock investment by the private sector that can enable youth entrepreneurs to access climate finance to address issues on the ground.

The National Youth Statement on Climate Change addresses the seven priority areas of Namibia in tackling climate change. Under each Priority Area, the youth made the following demands, urging their fellow youth, the government and development partners to support their efforts.

Water Security-The youth are committed to creating and participating in platforms that provide national awareness and national community sensitisation, with a view to accelerating greater community participation in enhanced water access efforts.  However, they call on increased collaboration with local NGOs to increase access to Water Health and Sanitation through financing, technical expertise to develop inclusive solutions, data collection and monitoring systems and, promote international cooperation on transboundary water resources. They also call for increased investment in (i) water and sanitation bulk infrastructure financing, (ii)social investment in community-based waste management and the circular economy, (iii) social entrepreneurship, (iv) investment in renewable energy-powered boreholes and (v) increased water harvesting to increase access to clean water.

Energy Access and Generation-Namibian youth identified funding and skills as critical challenges within the energy access and generation sector and, believe that increased funding, skills transfer and comprehensive training opportunities will enable them to contribute meaningfully to the country’s climate development agenda.

Agriculture and Food Security-The youth acknowledged their awareness of 1.5 million Namibians experiencing food insecurity issues and, call for the government, development partners and the private sector to double efforts towards enhancing food security while ensuring sustainable natural resource management.

Sustainable Industries and Development– The youth urge the government to come up with mechanisms for identifying and supporting innovative projects from the early stages, develop digitalised capacity-building initiatives for sustainable industries emerging and establish sustainable industrial-driven development projects which are youth inclusive. They also demand grant opportunities, accompanied by skills development, mentorship programmes, and investment in technology transfer through collaborative initiatives.

Sustainable Land Management and Development– The youth demand the government and private sector to prioritise immediate actions to address the critical challenges of Sustainable Land Management by incentivizing environmental protection, restoration and rehabilitation initiatives. They want to see increased investments in research, innovation, and capacity building to ensure the adoption of resilient land management techniques that safeguard our ecosystems, support rural livelihoods, and mitigate climate change.

Resilient Infrastructure-The Namibian youth request investments in sustainable eco-friendly smart technology and materials and the prioritization of social development for vulnerable communities. We commit to ensuring rural development programs are climate resilient (climate resilient development). They look forward to seeing  development partners offer development grants and scholarships to train youth in climate resilience and adaptation and, invest in vocational training centres for technical capacity.

Disaster Risk Management-The Namibian youth will work on identifying gaps in disaster risk management and Disaster Risk Reduction to be able to take up space, however, they request development partners and the government to avail funding and invest in rehabilitating the established health facilities in the communities and youth-led initiatives within this priority area.

The Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Hon. Heather Mwiza Sibungo who accepted the National Youth Statement on Climate Change, also acknowledged the youth efforts to deliberate on these issues, noting the urgency to take climate action and the significant role that the youth are playing. She further guaranteed her support for the developed National Youth Statement on Climate Change and that she will ensure that it contributes to greater national development efforts by presenting it in parliament and ensuring its deliberation thereof.

The summit had various engagements, including focus group discussions, regional youth presentations and exhibitions of national youth sustainable products and innovations. Namibian youth are eager to take action on climate change and ready to continue engaging and deliberating on how best to play their roles in addressing national and local challenges and responding to climate change impacts.