your Excellency Abdel Fattah Al-SisiPresident of the Arab Republic of Egypt
His Excellency Mostafa Kamal MadboulyAnd Prime Minister Arab Republic Egypt
His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Ministers, ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you at the World Youth Forum.
We begin the year, as we often do when the calendar shifts, by looking ahead. How can we be better. Be stronger. Creating a better future for ourselves and those we love. This year, it is more important than ever that we remain positive and find new solutions to the challenges facing our planet and our people.
We were expecting a lot from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. We got some of what we were looking for. Promises have been made to reduce coal use and end fossil fuel subsidies. More climate finance for adaptation to the effects of climate change. Support vulnerable countries that have suffered from climate damage. Ending deforestation. Reduce methane emissions.
But when we put it all together, the world is still on its way to a temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius. This means more climate impacts that we’re already seeing. storms. floods. Forest fires. displacement. Damage to human health, economy and business. This will mean that the warnings in the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will come true.
To avoid this bleak future, the world must nearly halve its greenhouse gas emissions over the next eight years. This is what we need to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C. And we must not forget that the climate crisis is one aspect of a triple interconnected planetary crisis that also includes the loss of nature, biodiversity, pollution and waste. We need to completely transform our systems to be green, sustainable and harmonious with the planet.
Friends, we can still change.
With the determination, activism, ideas and energy of young people at the fore, we can still build a greener and more prosperous future. Now I remind the young people at the forefront not to let other generations evade their responsibility. Remind Youth to encourage the continued brave and strong voices of young people around the world, to resonate in the social, economic, political and environmental spheres.
Youth leadership will be the difference between success and failure across the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste. Youth leadership will also be essential to translate it into action, the recent decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council to recognize the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
This work begins now. UNEP is turning to emergency equipment – including through major events that seek to create new momentum and bring people together in this fight. We have the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly resumed this year. This is the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment. Important decisions are being made to protect our natural world.
We have UNEP@50 in March, then Stockholm+50 and World Environment Day in June, all of which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the global environmental movement. Only One Earth is the theme for this year’s World Environment Day. It was also the motto of the Stockholm Conference of 1972. Fifty years later, this fact still stands – Planet Earth is our only home. Humanity must work together to protect Earth’s finite resources and to protect and restore the natural world on which our societies and economies so urgently depend.
We don’t have another 50 years to solve our environmental challenges. We don’t even have five. We need global participation, and global participation of young people, in these events and beyond – like the Stockholm+50 Youth Action Team, which was launched at the Glasgow Climate Summit in November.
We have seen the energy and righteous anger of young people, most recently on the streets of Glasgow. You are right to be angry. Previous generations have failed you. Now you can channel this energy to show the world how it should be done. Now you can join the change makers.
There are many ways you can channel this energy. Many ways to be change makers. Be the brave voices within companies to force them to go beyond lip service to sustainability. Use your vote to designate leaders who will do the right thing for the planet and your future. Pay your schools, faith groups, and organizations to turn their cash and pension funds into initiatives that support environmental sustainability and solutions. Start your green business to replace the old companies that will not change. Mobilize and organize in your community, city or region. Put your ideas and innovations on the table – because we need new technologies and new ways of living to replace our old and harmful practices.
But also be mindful of your own fingerprint. And re-evaluate the kind of life choices you make every day. Individual lifestyle choices make a difference. It’s important to choose greener forms of transportation, swap in the protein in your diet, and repair, reuse and recycle. But when we move from individual actions to teamwork, that’s when we make big leaps.
Clearly we have work to do. We must all play our part. Egypt demonstrated its leadership by serving as the Chair of the Fourteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The nation will also lead the next Conference of Parties on Climate Change, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh later this year. We need more of this leadership. Together, working across generations, driven by the energy of youth, we can change the world. Young people are not ready to settle in the same groove that has left deep wounds on our planet. You are not ready to just be a part of the future. You can, and you should define the future. Because it is yours.
Let me conclude with the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose passing this month we mourn. “Do a little good wherever you are; it is those little bits of good combined that overwhelm the world.”