Twenty-six years ago, it was recognized that education, training, public awareness, public participation and access to information are key to tackle climate change. The Earth Conference in Rio was the scene where this recognition was given within the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, these issues were recognized and included in one of its mandates. Indeed, the Framework Convention has been the principal platform in which these issues have been maintained and grouped given them the name of ‘Action for climate empowerment’, or ACE.
ACE has become a second priority topic to work on when compared to other issues such as mitigation, adaptation, and financing. In an effort not to let these important aspects to be left outside of the international negotiations, that serve as models for countries to work on internally, the youth has taken over the topics. They have dedicated their work to highlight and spread the need for enhancing ACE in order for the Paris Agreement and any action on climate change to last in time and reach better outcomes. Any action that is carried out in the face of climate change needs support from civil society who must be informed in order to contribute. Likewise, an educated society, with access to information and real opportunity for participation, will ask and pressure their governments to have more work on climate change; could this be a hidden reason why it is not given priority? Who knows, but it is definitely an issue that has not been lost thanks to youth.
Article 12 of the Paris Agreement is the one that advocates for work in ACE; introduced thanks to the work of young people who met tirelessly with negotiators to have it included. Now, when we have the Agreement, the work has focused on defining, what are the steps to follow so that ACE actions are carried out and are part of the Paris Work Program? At COP23, under the chairmanship of Fiji, extraordinarily it was seen in the negotiations that an official written document requested for the input of parties, civil society, and youth in particular what is needed for implementation. This is remarkable since it means that the views of youth have been given a direct access to influence what is yet to be decided on how to move forward and how is best for ACE to be implemented by parties.