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Indian Youth Voice for Sustainability at the Young India Challenge Reunion: “We want a future full of hope not dismay”

23rd November, New Delhi: Fifty young people from across the country from the Young India Challenge community  gathered in New Delhi for a bi-annual reunion to create an action roadmap to tackle the climate emergency. The event was co-organised by RSPO, My Mark My City Initiative, AIESEC and Youth for Earth and after a month long intense discussions and productive critical arguments, youth from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds joined hands to co-create their commitment towards a shared responsibility for deforestation and exploitation free products in India and for making sustainable palm oil the norm.

This gathering was a follow up to the ‘10th Young India Challenge’ organized by Human Circle on 12-13 Oct 2019 at IIT Delhi and a ‘Climate Action Roundtable’ organized for the My Mark My City Initiative by the Museum for United Nations -UN Live’ in association with Human Circle in Mumbai. The event saw the participation of  500 selected youth, mentors, speakers and partners from more than 75 cities. The theme of the event was ‘Sustainable Living’ and the focus for the delegates was to find practical solutions for the ‘United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12 ans 13, namely, Responsible Consumption and Production and Climate Action.

The Indian Youth Delegation stated

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“We represent millions of young people in India. We are now a 1.3 billion people country. More than 50% of our population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. For some this represents a demographic dividend and for others our overpopulation is putting immense pressure on the natural resources like air and water and worsening the climate crisis. We think this is a wake up call for all Indians and that it is time that we consider our ecological footprint not just in India but in other countries as well, which supply essential commodities to us like palm oil, pulp & paper, timber, soy, rubber and many others. We are aware that India is in a way IMPORTING DEFORESTATION through these products. For example, India is the largest consumer of palm oil, 50% of all the products we buy contain palm oil.

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We grew up in an era of extreme change. We have seen our homes once a place of warmth to be surrounded with smog, our air that gives us breath to be coloured in grey haze, our coastline where we have our livelihoods to be receding. In the Himalayan region, we see glaciers melting, temperatures rising above the imaginable and cyclones in Odisha destroying everything in its way. 15 states across India faced devastating floods in 2019.  We have no doubt that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. According to Greta Thunberg, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about your fairy tales of money and eternal economic growth.” Every drought and every flood is now more severe and more devastating. There is a need to ACT NOW!

The shift towards sustainable palm oil is a win-win situation for all. We believe that, not just us the youth, but all of us here today want to live in a future that is recognisable to us, one with abundant clean air to breathe, thriving forests and wildlife. There is no reason to accept anything less. This is the time for you, people of great power and influence within your circles lead this change. And we, the youth of India will be right behind you

Stop asking us to solve all your problems that you created. Solve them now. A better future is possible, and we will not settle for anything less.

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The Indian Youth Delegation will continue their work on #YouthForSustainability in their respective countries.

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“Time To Act Is Now”: Asian Youth Urge Big Businesses To Make Palm Oil Production Sustainable

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Fifty young people from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand gathered in Bangkok for the inaugural Asian Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil Summit co-organised by RSPO, PM Haze, and GIZ Thailand. After nine hours of intense discussions and productive critical arguments, youth from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds joined hands to co-create commitment towards shared responsibility to make ‘sustainable palm oil’ the norm.

The youth delegation hosted their summit prior to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil conference to highlight the urgency for big businesses to act now. The Asian Youth Delegation stated, “We represent 4 billion people in the region. We grew up in an era of extreme change. We have seen our homes once a place of warmth to be on fire now, our air that gives us breath to be coloured in grey haze and smog, our coastline where we have our livelihoods to be receding. And elsewhere in the world, we see glaciers melting, temperatures rising above the imaginable and typhoons destroying everything in its way. There is a need to act, now.”

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The statement by the Youth Delegation went on to question the effectiveness of our current approaches. “Lifestyle changes can make a difference. But is it really enough? The key to achieving a sustainable future lies in economic transformation. And this economic transformation cannot happen without integrity. We ask of you the businesses, to commit and deliver your environmental promises and to be transparent with your progress. Because it is vital for businesses to change first so that the rest of us can join in the wave of change. This long-term investment will encourage brand loyalty and economic benefit. It will unite consumers and businesses towards a common goal for a sustainable future. There is no time to be ready, we just have to commit and grind through the challenges together,” the statement read.

The Asian youth delegation emphasised that accountability and innovation are key, and as the next generation they will be committing to sustainability themselves but also hold organisations and businesses accountable.

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With our numbers and the economics we represent, which constitute more than 50% of the global GDP, we believe that youth today have great power to offer. Our common values, ideas, and energy will be our drive. To support you, the youth of Asia promises you here today that:

– We will integrate sustainability in and beyond our daily lives.
– We will keep ourselves informed of current affairs and effective solutions.
– We will work collaboratively through public platforms, therefore amplifying our impacts.
– We pledge to keep ourselves, businesses, governments, and NGOs accountable across countries for sustainable production and consumption of palm oil,” the statement read.

The delegation went on to state, “The youth have committed to this. And you have no choice but to work together. The shift towards sustainable palm oil is a win-win situation for all. We believe that not just us the youth, but all of us here today want to live in a future that is recognisable to us, one with abundant clean air to breathe, thriving forests and wildlife. There is no reason to accept anything less. This is the time for you, people of great power and influence within your circles lead this change. And we, the youth, the 4 billion in South Asia and Southeast Asia will be right behind you. A better future is possible.”

“The effort by the youths to engage in critical discussions of sustainable palm oil sector is commendable. Engaging with youths has always been part of our advocacy strategy, as we believe that we can grow an effective grassroots movement to increase adoption of sustainable palm oil to prevent transboundary haze in the region.” Benjamin Tay, Executive Director, People’s Movement to Stop Haze

“The action from Asian Youth is so inspiring! They have done a great job to support sustainable consumption. Consumer awareness on sustainable palm oil in Thailand is still low. We, GIZ as a cooperation development agency, commit  here that we together with Thai youth will leverage this awareness.” Kanokwan Saswattecha, Project Manager of Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil in Thailand, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

“There is a big opportunity for businesses to meet the sustainability expectations of the youth and build trust and brand loyalty through sustainable palm oil sourcing policies and actions. We encourage all the RSPO members to respond to this call. Together we can inspire a generation of people with hope and optimism and co-create a more inclusive world for all. THERE IS NO PLANET B.” Kamal Prakash Seth, Country Head, RSPO India

The Asian Youth Delegation will continue their work on #YouthForSustainability in their respective countries.