By Ashemir Velasco
Alumni of the Youth Energy Academy in Asia, Andi Rosita Dewi (Indonesia) and Ashemir Velasco (Philippines), were among five young women invited as delegates to the Sustainable Energy for All Pavilion at COP 27, where they met with Nigerian sustainable energy advocate and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, Damilola Ogunbiyi.
The 2022 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 06-18 November 2022 is also known as the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27). As usual, COP27 had thematic days for the entire stretch of the two-week event.
I was invited to participate in the activities on Youth Day (November 10), Gender Day (November 14), and Energy Day (November 15) at the SDG7 Pavilion, as a young woman delegate of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). This year was also the second in which SEforALL hosted the SDG7 Pavilion at COP. Created by the UN in 2015, the 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG7) focuses on making sure that everyone has access to clean, sustainable, and affordable energy by 2030.
During Youth Day, I attended the launch of the Youth Energy Transition Commission (YETC). This movement aims to strengthen connection and collaboration among youth organizations working towards the achievement of SDG7. The commission caters to provide a common environment for networking and discussion to achieve the sustainable energy for all goal. Youth organization leaders were able to share how they work towards achieving SDG7 in their respective communities and countries, which made the audience find ways to work at the grassroots level. Meeting fellow youth with the same goal as yours can make you feel you are not alone in this fight for everyone’s access to sustainable energy. Youths are indeed needed in conversations and discussions about energy because we are the generation with a large stake when it comes to climate change.
"Women can collectively power the world if they are empowered and given the knowledge, skills, and resources to do so."
The second week of COP27 started with Gender Day, where discussions at the SDG7 Pavilion highlighted the role of women in the energy transition. It was also emphasized that the sustainable energy sector is a potential catalyst in achieving gender equality. That is, the interplay between women empowerment and the energy transition primarily hits two goals: SDGs 5 and 7. SDG5 focuses on attaining gender equality and empowering women and girls. In the Philippines, mothers are tagged as “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of the home). Denotatively, mothers, or women in general, can play a vital role in lighting up their households and communities. Women can collectively power the world if they are empowered and given the knowledge, skills, and resources to do so. Towards the end of Gender Day, I participated in a networking event focusing on women and youth at the forefront of the energy transition.
Gender Day was followed by Energy Day, wherein the Malawi Integrated Energy Plan was launched. There were also a series of dialogues on scaling up the energy transition around the world, focusing on the African context. The Energy Day at the SDG7 Pavilion revolved primarily around the cooling and efficiency issues of equity. For example, the urban heat island effect that is currently rampant in major cities across the globe. Different experts of different specializations shared solutions from their perspectives on how to address sustainable cooling and energy efficiency challenges. Nature-based solutions can help mitigate the warming effects of climate change. On this day, I was able to meet Damilola Ogunbiyi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SEforALL, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, and Cochair of UN Energy. CEO Ogunbiyi took time to talk to young women of the SEforALL delegation. Answering to a request for quick and short advice for young women forwarding the SDG7, she told the delegation to always look for and establish our own support system – a support system that is encouraging, motivating, and reminding us that together, we can achieve a just energy transition. She also shared her experiences during the early stage of her career, saying that the first steps are always the hardest, but also reassuring that with the right networks and collaborators, goals are achievable. An empowered woman like her empowers women youth delegation who will then empower women in their home countries and communities, and the magical ripple effect goes on.
My takeaway from COP27 is a challenge to be a young but firm woman in joining climate negotiations and delegations, as youth and women together represent a majority of world demographics. If it is too ideal for all youth and women to speak up in climate discussions and events like COP27, especially those who still do not have access to clean energy, then I will be their voice so they can be heard. I already have found my support system thanks to the Youth Energy Academy, Sustainable Energy Youth Network, and Sustainable Energy for All, so challenge accepted anyway!
Ashemir is a Filipino alumnus of the 2019 edition of the Youth Energy Academy in Asia.