Today in Hyderabad was a momentous occasion, as the city is hosting the nation’s first youth summit on climate change, organized by the Indian Youth Climate Network and its partners, hosted by Infosys in Gachibowli. The Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change is bringing together more than 150 youth from across the nation, representing more than fifteen states of India, to discuss climate change and identify a common youth vision for climate action on mitigation and adaptation.
Today’s inaugural session of the Indian Youth Summit on Climate Change began with a presentation by Mr. Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations, who spoke about the importance of youth coming together to discuss and address climate change. He emphasized that there was a complete scientific consensus on the issue of climate change being caused by human activities, and that we all needed to unite to address the issue.
Vandana Shiva, an eminent physicist, environmental activist, author and the founder of the Navdanya Institute, spoke about the three crises that are currently coinciding: the environmental crisis, the energy crisis and the global food crisis. She emphasized that by addressing agriculture and turning towards organic farming, India could address all three of these crises. Organic agriculture is more adaptive towards climatic changes while also using less fossil fuels for fertilizer and pesticide production.
During a session of questions and answers from the guests, Vandana Shiva said that after here generation, she was wondering where the youth were for climate action, and said that the summit and IYCN had been her Prozac – had given her new hope – that youth really do care and are committed to climate action.
The three founders of the Indian Youth Climate Network, Deepa Gupta, Kartikeya Singh and Govind Singh spoke about the beginnings of the organization, the projects that IYCN is pursuing, and the vision for a united Indian youth voice on climate change. In the past four months, the organization has grown from a reach of three people to reaching 2 lakh individuals. The founders agreed that this is proof that the young India wants to see change and are willing to take action to make that change.
Deepa Gupta, a climate activist working in Australia and in India said, “There are so many young people working on this issue, and we won’t be listened to as individuals or as a small group of people, but mass united as the Youth of India, we cannot be ignored. India has about 700 million under the age of 35. How can they not be represented in the decisions, when they are the ones that will be impacted the most by climate change?”
The evening also saw the launch of the Hyderabad Climate Alliance, a youth movement to bring together local efforts of individuals, organizations and institutions with the aim of mitigating climate change and helping the people of Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh adapt to its impacts. The launch included all 50 delegates from Hyderabad and AP signing on to the Hyderabad Climate Alliance Pledge, agreeing that they “understand that climate change is an impending global catastrophe… and believe that Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh will be particularly susceptible… and commit to contribute in earnest to mitigating climate change and helping the people and natural environment of Hyderabad to adapt.”
Amala Akkinani, film star and founder of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad, spoke about the different actions necessary for the people of Hyderabad to commit to in order to address climate change. She emphasized the need for lifestyle changes and how that would translate to changes on a larger city-wide level as well. She said, “I may not be a climate expert, but I am a concerned citizen. I love my planet; it is my only home.” Akkinani had participated in The Climate Project: India’s training program with Al Gore in February, and is very active with the Blue Cross to work for the welfare of animals in Hyderabad.
The summit continues for the next three days, including youth discussion sessions, plenary sessions with special guests, artistic performances, a climate change film festival, and concluding with the release of a Indian Youth Declaration on Climate Change. This declaration and the summit’s discussions will help IYCN in the coming months develop a Youth Climate Action Plan, incorporating a youth vision of the National Climate Action Plan, and develop a vision for international climate policy which will be brought to the United Nations Climate Negotiations in Poland in December.