Reflections from UNICEF Young Ambassadors on COP28 and the role of business

When it comes to any discussion about the future of our climate, children and young people are arguably the most important stakeholder group. That’s why UNICEF Aotearoa sent a group of Young Ambassadors to Dubai to bring the voice of youth in Aotearoa New Zealand to the table at COP28.

The UNICEF Aotearoa Young Ambassadors are all aged between 18-23 and took their unique perspectives as indigenous, Māori, Pasifika, LGBTTQIA+, rural and urban rangatahi to COP28. They also represented many other young New Zealanders after engaging with hundreds of youth across the motu over the past year to hear their thoughts on climate action.

All of the Young Ambassadors recognise the critical role the private sector has to play in transitioning to a low emissions society. Here are some of their thoughts, reflections, and ideas for business off the back of COP28.

Thomas Blakie, 20, from Christchurch (European/Māori Ngāi Tāhu)

Student at the University of Canterbury

Why is it important that young people are at COP?

So that our voices are heard. We are at the forefront of climate change, so our voices are especially useful for realising change. It provides a chance for negotiators, organisations and businesses to learn and collaborate with youth, engaging us in our future.

What role do you think businesses can play in tackling the climate challenge?

I believe businesses can play a huge role in tackling the climate challenge. Businesses have the opportunity to be leaders in the climate space, breaking new ground and working with communities in forging a more secure climate future.

Any other thoughts or ideas about the business community in relation to COP and/or climate change?

I think there is an amazing opportunity for the business community to partner with young people in tackling the climate challenge. Collaboration is what we need to tackle climate change, and business will play a key role.

Priya Potts, 17, from Matamata (Māori, Ngāti Whakaue)

Student at Matamata College

What are your first impressions of COP?

First of all, it’s very hot. It’s very overwhelming, but it’s also bustling with diversity. I was really struck in with a lot of emotion when I first came here, seeing all the diverse cultures represented in one place around the same common cause. Also the passion that all the youth have, it’s really, really inspiring and motivating.

Why is it important that young people are at COP?

Well, obviously it’s important that we represent half of the world’s population, especially when it comes to negotiating tables and making decisions for our planet’s future. Also, I think that there’s a wealth of knowledge of matauranga Maori within the youth community. We have new ideas, fresh ideas that could make a difference within the climate space community.

What role do you think businesses can play in tackling the climate challenge?

I think it’s important that businesses take responsibility for how much they can impact the environment.  They should be paving the way, especially in my rural community. I don’t see it happening enough. I think it’s important that businesses consider that the land around them, the whenua, as just as important as the profits they are receiving. I think overall it’s important that we all take responsibility for our impact on the world. It’s not just something that should be brushed aside, and for a lot of youth, when we see businesses not taking it seriously, we might end up following suit. It’s important that businesses pave the way, be the role models for the youth who might want to get into these businesses or industries.

Ngārita Mackenzie, 17 from Christchurch (Māori, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngāti Kahungunu Wairoa)

Student at Christchurch Girls’ High School

Why is it important that young people are at COP?

It’s important that young people are at COP because it’s a way for them to express their views and perspectives, and also to show that young people’s voices need to be heard on discussions of climate change because they’re the ones inheriting these issues.

And what role do you think businesses can play in tackling the climate challenge?

I think there are two roles that businesses can play in tackling the climate challenge. One is financing innovation and ideas, and the other is financing developing countries to combat climate change. There are opportunities for businesses to innovate and create new ways to tackle climate change.

Have you seen any examples of businesses doing great stuff to improve the environment and tackle climate change? The Green Zone at COP was where innovation for climate change was really clear, particularly in the transport sector. Yes, there were electric cars, but not the typical electric cars, but rather options for different groups who may not necessarily be motivated to purchase a car because of climate change. I also saw electronic helicopters, which were being marketed to different groups that might not necessarily be engaged in climate issues.

13 Dec, 2023

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