Finally, the first ever LCOY US!
Climate youth activists, from the United States (US) or based in the US, came together in taken Lenni Lenape Native Land, known as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (and obviously some through magical Zoom connection) to kick off the largest-ever convening of US youth climate leaders at the Local Conference of Youth (LCOY) in the US. The conference was self-organized by youth and for youth and the planet.
Young Indigenous leaders, farmers, students, business professionals, teachers, climate organizers, and climate activists from 24 states came together at Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel on September 23-25, 2022.
This conference was unique because it focused on drafting important policy positions in the context of national and international climate action and adaptation.
But what exactly is LCOY? And, what is there to buzz on about? Well, the story goes back to another famous acronym — UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). In 1992, 196 countries of the world formed the convention, which aims to bring countries together to solve the problem of climate change. To achieve this goal, the parties to the convention meet annually at the Conference of Parties (COP) to negotiate agenda items detailed by the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement, and other international treaties agreed to at COPs meant to tackle the climate crisis.
Recognizing that young people will be most affected by the decisions that we take (or don’t take) on climate change today and the lack of youth representation in country delegations, young people, with the support of the UNFCCC, self-organized a formal Youth Constituency to the UNFCCC (YOUNGO) in 2009. Each year, before the annual COP, young people from across the world come together to conduct the Global Conference of Youth (COY), which results in the creation of a Global Youth Statement of youth priorities and demands for countries to take into account at COP.
Unfortunately, not all young people have the financial stability, time off, and flexible commitments to attend the Global COY. To ensure the Global Youth Statement is reflective of frontline needs from more than just who can attend, YOUNGO launched the Local Conference of Youth (LCOY) and Regional Conference of Youth (RCOY). Over the last eight years, Local Conferences of Youth have convened motivated young people in 120 countries across the globe to create statements that inform policymakers of their concerns and position on climate change.
Up until 2022, there had never been an LCOY in the United States.
Being the historically largest polluter with a history of colonization and systemic environmental racism, we couldn’t deny the need to mobilize young people and create a shared vision of an equitable future together.
At LCOY USA, the discussion revolved around five themes: Action for Climate Empowerment, Climate Justice, Climate Adaptation, Food Systems, and Health. Although these do not encompass every issue facing us as youth, we see them as crucial to tackling climate change in the US and globally. From keynote speeches, such as the speech provided by Brenda Mallory, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair during our Opening Ceremony and climate capacity building session, to a dozen amazing knowledge sharing events produced by attendees and networking sessions, the three-day conference really had it all!
We are excited to use this as a jumping off point for future LCOYs — we’re hoping to reach all 50 states, US territories, and Indigenous communities next year. We encourage you to review, support, and incorporate the views of young people in your work shared in our Youth Statement.
Hailey Campbell – Co-Executive Director, Care About Climate
A native Texan, Hailey is a youth advocate and change-maker for climate justice and sustainable development who holds a Masters of Sustainability Solutions and B.S. in Sustainability from Arizona State University. She is a cross-sector leader with experience leading youth-policy initiatives at UNFCCC events (e.g. COP), designing climate action guidelines for islands and universities, developing zero-waste strategies and partnerships, and crafting climate education materials. In addition to her volunteer role with us, she serves as a volunteer for City and County of Honolul’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency where she is leading their equitable community engagement strategy for their climate adaptation plan. She works to empower global communities and youth to find their climate voice, turn their ideas into climate solutions, and see themselves as part of the solution to the climate crisis.
Pramisha Thapaliya is passionate about meaningful youth engagement and youth mobilization in inter-governmental processes, especially in the areas of climate change, food and agriculture! She has a specific interest in sustainable and resilient agri-food systems, as they interact with climate change, economics, and international development. She is also working as the SDG 2 Focal Point of ‘Major Group for Children and Youth’ and co-focal point of ‘YOUNGO Agriculture Working Group’. She is from Nepal and is currently enrolled in an MS in Economics at South Dakota State University, United States.
Sarah Wetzel, public health ’23 from Drexel University, was one of several undergraduate students in Drexel University’s delegation at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s annual Conference of Parties in 2021 (COP26).