The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) recognises the critical role played by youth in ensuring an inclusive, sustainable, and climate-resilient future. IRENA engages with youth through various initiatives driven by a vision of young leaders empowered to bring about beneficial change. IRENA in early 2023 is engaging with youth in a series of events starting with the Youth Forum at the Agency’s 13th Assembly and during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).
At its annual Youth Forum, IRENA offered a platform for a dialogue between youth and global pioneers. The Forum brought together 140 young people from 50 countries and diverse backgrounds under the theme “Empowering Youth to Lead an Equitable Energy Transition for a Sustainable Future”; a sentiment in line with the overarching theme of the 13th IRENA Assembly, “World Energy Transition – The Global Stocktake.”
Youth participation in the 13th Assembly led to several recommendations. Ishita Yadav, a representative of the IRENA Global Council on Enabling Youth Action on Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) presented the recommendations to the leaders on the last day of Assembly, on behalf of all youth delegates present at the 2023 IRENA Youth Forum.
These recommendations included unlocking finance to enhance scalability of renewable energy and empowering youth in energy policy at the national and international levels. To achieve this second goal, IRENA Members were invited to include youth in their delegations to future Assembly sessions; if accepted, this would lead to 168 youth delegates representing its 168 Members.
Finally, there was a call for a 100 per cent renewables’ agenda at COP28. Young people reminded leaders at the Assembly that climate change should be about energy change, and that they should make sure COP28 results in considerable progress in the energy transition.
IRENA’s engagement with youth continued at ADSW. Together with IRENA experts, young people were engaged in several dialogues. Participants also visited the Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Power Plant, giving them direct knowledge of how solar power works and contributes to the energy transition and emission reductions.
IRENA Youth Delegates also shared their views as panellists in the discussion on green jobs and youth co-organised by IRENA and Youth 4 Sustainability, a Masdar initiative. Jane Jamila Nakasamu, Chief Executive Officer of Greenbelt Energy Limited, Kenya, urged policymakers to encourage youth entrepreneurship to contribute to the energy transitions.
In the session “Gender, STEM and Energy” co-organised by IRENA and Girl Up United Nations Foundation, participants exchanged their experiences on barriers in STEM careers and education. The girls in the group sought to learn from each other’s experiences in overcoming these barriers. One of the suggestions made to IRENA is to highlight more women in STEM in the Agency’s storytelling efforts, so girls can feel empowered and are convinced STEM offers a future to them.
Yetunde Deborah Fadeyi of REES Africa added “We should enable facilitators to train women and girls in the marginalised communities to create equal distribution of knowledge and capacity building in STEM.”
The IRENA Pavilion at ADSW also hosted several youth sessions: one was co-organised with the Student Energy Summit to discuss providing youth with access and opportunities to realise their energy transition ambitions; another session showcased the actions taken by IRENA Youth Delegates. Initiatives presented included awareness-raising activities and social enterprises promoting renewable solutions, especially to marginalised communities.
Engaging youth as equal stakeholders, and showing them how renewable energy solutions contribute to the achievement of the Paris Agreement and SDGs, are the first steps to preparing them to be leaders and actors in the sustainable future. Beyond knowledge, youth should be equipped with opportunities, skills, and finance access.
“Policymakers must create enabling spaces and opportunities for youth from all backgrounds in the world, to make sure we are actively involved at all levels of the policymaking process for just and inclusive energy transition and leave no youth behind,” said Asma Rouabhia, SDG7 Youth Constituency.
As IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said at the 13th Assembly, “Young people under thirty represent half of the global population and will be the generation most greatly impacted by a lack of urgent action. We want to empower young people to be the new generation of decision makers and to be involved in every level of energy policy for a just and inclusive energy transition."
“Policymakers must make sure to leave no youth behind”