Making Waves: The Y7’s true commitment to a green and inclusive recovery

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This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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Over the last few years, environmental activism is increasingly involving young people. Unsurprisingly, the fight against climate change has become associated with the bold and brave faces of adolescents around the globe, including Greta Thunberg, Xiye Bestida and Adenike Oladosu. Despite their young age, young activists are shaking world leaders’ consciences on how global economies and policies need to reflect our climate goals.

When COVID-19 first hit, a profound sense of silence invaded the community of young environmental activists, particularly those who had made schools and student activism the core of their campaigns. As the places they gathered were shut down, young people’s inner aspirations were paused, together with the idealism of their most historical battles.

This year, the Youth engagement group of the G7 (Y7) had the honourable task of gathering the young people’s voices silenced by the COVID-19 restrictions. Young people remained worried that the proposed economic packages would fail to capture our climate ambitions and seize the opportunities offered by a green transition.

Find out more about the OECD's International Programme for Action on Climate providing policy advice and sharing best practices to support countries’ efforts to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement

In this peculiar moment of silence, the Y7 delegates made clear that young people’s priorities must be discussed at the negotiating table of the 2021 G7. Held in Cornwall from 11-13 June, the leaders of the seven most industrialised countries will be urged to address the ambitious demands of the youth. This year, the Y7 delegations developed policy recommendations on the global economy, digital technologies, health, and climate and the environment, all of which made up the proposals for this year’s ambitious communiqué.

2021 appears to be at a crossroad of important events for climate and the environment—and a year which could pave the way for an unprecedented international response. The United Kingdom will chair both the G7 and, in November, COP26, where the Paris Agreement paradigms on carbon emissions are expected to be clarified. COP26 will be co-chaired by Italy, which also holds the G20 presidency, and its 2021 motto “People, planet and prosperity” should be the focus of the international community’s recovery measures. Finally, in October China, an increasingly committed and crucial global player, will host the 15th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to finalise the decade’s objectives to reverse the degradation of biodiversity and nature.

Read more on the Forum Network: "A Breaking Point with the Past: Why young people must shape a sustainable future" by Alberta Pelino, Chair of the Y20 Italy

This year, the Y7 wanted to set the pace for this ambitious recovery ahead of all the international gatherings that will happen in the next few months. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that effective international mobilisation and co-operation is not utopian. Countries and their respective leaders, bureaucracies and scientific communities can work together and share their best practices. It was thanks to this openness that first examples of aid arrived, patients could count on doctors from foreign delegations and, finally, vaccines were developed and globally rolled out. 

There is an opportunity to use the sense of emergency that fuelled this global response to COVID-19 to help us combat the climate and environmental crises. The massive impact of human activities, reflected in tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and man-made environmental degradation, are among the major causes of natural disasters that continue to be important concerns for young people across the G7.

This year, the Y7 is calling for the world's most influential leaders to follow a three-step plan for the years to come, to ensure a green recovery while building sustainable and inclusive societies.

Read the report "The long-term environmental implications of COVID-19" and see the latest OECD data for #ClimateAction, recommendations and policy advice on the Green Recovery

Firstly, we must approach the climate and biodiversity crises with the same prompt resoluteness that we faced the COVID-19 pandemic with. Over the last few years, data and monitoring capabilities have been boosted, yet the political will is still lacking; the latter will be needed to define these crises as global, both in environmental and humanitarian terms. The Y7 delegates are calling for international intervention, co-ordinated by the G7 countries, to protect the most vulnerable communities, identifying the natural disasters affecting them as a direct consequence of human activities.

Secondly, the patterns of these human activities must be reversed. The Y7 is calling for the reimagination of our economic future, one that prioritises the sustainable management of our natural resources. In Italy, for example, one in three young people are profoundly worried about deforestation, and the same proportion cares about biodiversity loss (data collected through an online questionnaire to Italian young people, aged 14-30, between March and April 2021). The Y7 proposals include incentivising a sustainable agricultural system as a source for youth employment. Harmonising the deployment of renewable energy technologies and recycling batteries is also an important issue that still lacks international attention. Young people also want to see more comprehensive regulations to protect international waters—the world’s richest and most extensive ocean resources that as yet are under no one’s jurisdiction, and at risk of depletion.

Thirdly, global leaders must firmly commit to stop funding carbon-intensive and biodiversity-unfriendly activities. While several commitments have been made so far, 2021 is an opportunity to finally set the pace at which finance flows can be redirected towards net-zero and nature-positive activities.

The Y7 is joining voices with the numerous other engagement groups of the G7 (Business, Women, Civil Society, Science, and Labour), to advocate for the type of society we want to leave to future generations. In our way of “making waves”, this year we strongly believe that it is crucial to shape the world’s post-pandemic recovery through green, inclusive, and sustainable lenses. We owe it to the future inhabitants of our planet.

We call on all G7 leaders to take action on the youth recommendations. We also need to encourage the broader and more inclusive participation of our fellow citizens to make our voice heard during—and after—the Cornwall negotiations. If you want to join us in calling world leaders to action, you can sign the communiqué by completing the form on the Future Leaders Network website.

Related Topics

Tackling COVID-19 Green Recovery Intergenerational Solidarity International Co-operation


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Rachele De Angelis & Carla-Anide Guillaume

2021 Delegates, Youth 7

Rachele De Angelis and Carla-Anide Guillaume are two of the delegates at the 2021 Y7, in charge of the climate and environment proposals for the G7 negotiations.

Rachele is Head of the Italian delegation at the 2021 Y7. She has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at LUISS University in Rome, and she is now Master’s candidate in International Public Management at the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po Paris. She is currently working for the OECD Department for the Public Affairs and Communication Directorate, where she is contributing to the upcoming events of the OECD.

Passionate about the management of climate change and nature degradation, Rachele is interested in the public and private cooperation to tackle their risks in global economy. She joined the OECD Environment Directorate in June 2020, in the Green Growth and Global Relation Unit, where she contributed to the organisation of the Green Growth and Sustainable Development Forum. She also researched on the topics of the green-inclusive growth nexus, where she focused on the costs of climate change and environmental degradation on different societal groups.

Carla-Anide Guillaume is the Canadian Delegate for the climate and environment track at the 2021 Y7 Summit. Passionate about international cooperation, sustainability, and technology, she is dedicated to making our global village a better place for future generations.

Carla is currently working as research assistant for the International Training Program in Development Evaluation where she monitors gender integration, the effectiveness and sustainability of development programs in francophone Africa and Haiti.

Carla has completed an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Concordia University and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the École nationale d’administration publique du Québec (ENAP). She has received an Emerging Talent Award from the Bar of Montreal and through her leadership and community involvement, continues to be committed to social issues like environmental justice, inclusion and gender equality. Alongside her academic and professional accomplishments, Carla is also the editor of an online publication called SAYASPORA, a platform for young African women worldwide, and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers hub of Montreal.