Climate Challenge Conference

The National Commission sponsored the Climate Challenge Conferences through the 2018/19 UNESCO Contestable Activity Fund. UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders Ashlee, Nola and Liletina attended the Auckland conference and Raven and Morgan went to the Wellington event. Liletina reports back on the Auckland experience.

On Saturday 25 May, UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders Ashlee, Nola and Liletina attended Auckland’s Climate Challenge Conference of 2019 which was held at Auckland University’s Science Centre. More than 200 high school students from across Auckland were also in attendance. The first Climate Challenge Conference was established in 2015 by rangatahi for rangatahi. It has since grown from one annual conference in Wellington to conferences in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

The conference aims to inspire, equip and celebrate New Zealand’s young people who are interested in environmental issues. It provides each young person with an opportunity to learn, share and network with each other and with expert leaders in the climate change space. Past speakers include Chlöe Swarbrick, Teanau Tuiono, Laura O’Connell Rapira, and Guy Mason. Other relevant organisations include Auckland Council, Generation Zero and UNESCO. Each young person the UNESCO team met was engaged, excited, and brought their unique voice and perspectives as they discussed their hopes for the future. I was especially inspired by their enthusiasm.

During lunch our UNESCO team shared the history and work of UNESCO to students and connected with the rangatahi. Attendees spoke about their hope for agricultural land to be restored to native forest, reducing the use of plastic, feeding solutions (a type of feed from seaweed) for stock to decrease levels of methane, and increased Pasifika and Maori youth participation in the climate change space. Students were also asked to share their perspective on New Zealand’s new Zero Carbon Bill. Each attendee was invited to write down their thoughts and stick it to a wall to create a large mural of youth whakaaro. UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders aim to collate the thoughts that were shared and use it to guide a submission to the Zero Carbon Select Committee from a youth perspective.

The majority of rangatahi the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders spoke to also attended the recent climate school strike. It is evident there is a significant youth voice in New Zealand that is demanding climate action.