TIMEOUT: Constructive dialogue on youth and climate, Canberra

H.E. Mr Lars Backström, Ambassador of Finland

H.E. Mr Lars Backström, Ambassador of Finland

This week our Sustainability & Youth Officer, Timothy Shue, attended a special dialogue on youth and climate hosted by the Embassy of Finland in Canberra, coinciding with the EU Climate Diplomacy Week. The ICLEI Young Writers Network was recognised by the Embassy for improving the communication of sustainability research with university students. Greta Thunberg’s fiery speech at the UN Climate Summit on 24 September set the backdrop for the discussion.

The dialogue used the Finnish TIMEOUT model, a way of listening and talking in peaceful and constructive discussion. Attendees were of varied backgrounds, ages and professions, from year 11 school students from Queensland (and their teacher) who shared experiences from a climate summit in Finland, to the Ambassador of Finland, H.E. Mr Lars Backström who spoke about Finland’s climate leadership, Mr Shane Rattenbury, the ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, and professionals from government, think tanks, universities and NGOs.

It was inspiring to have such an honest and direct conversation with high praise to the facilitators Mirjam and Nina from the Embassy for making the event such a success. These are some of the very interesting and unexpected findings from our discussion:

  • Climate or eco-anxiety is something that affects all of us, especially youth

  • Responsibility for climate action is shared, but responsibility is not necessarily matched with equal rights (e.g. the right to vote)

  • The idea of climate transitions is going to become increasingly important, and one reason why the school strikers included a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers as one of their core demands

  • Making climate actions tangible, local and in line with community values is one way to break resistance to climate action, which is too often framed as a cost without a list of benefits - local governments and cities play a critical role in this

  • The role of technology and social media will play an increasingly important but also uncertain role in future momentum of the youth climate movement

The discussion reinvigorated us with the ability to keep moving forward with the hope that we are making progress on climate diplomacy in Australia and around the world.

Timothy Shue