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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.