Chhimi Dema 

The fourth series  ‘Youth Matters: Voices and Action in Climate Change’ of a climate series talk, titled ‘Raising Climate Ambition: Voices from Bhutan’, was held on August 12 coinciding with international youth day.

During the session, the youth panellists shared their environmental concerns of food waste, glacial lake outburst flood, consumerism, and other impacts of climate change.

The youth shared that they should be given opportunities and platforms to raise their concerns and their engagement in policy-making should be considered.

The session also highlighted the need for a robust environmental and climate change curriculum in the schools for greater engagement and understanding of the climate issues.

Namita Giri, 17, a student, said that the younger generation needed to be thoroughly engaged while taking climate action.

“Younger generation are going to be facing the impacts of climate change more than the policy-makers. Moreover, we should be able to decide what kind of future we want and what policies we want,” she said.

The 17-year-old started an international project to advocate on breaking unsustainable habits. The group carried out an up-cycling project and a cleaning campaign in the country.

Namita Giri said that the community does not feel that they are suffering from the impacts of climate change because they don’t face drastic climate issues.

“The community needs to come together and shouldn’t wait for an unfortunate event to occur to take action,” she said.

It is better preparing beforehand than trying to mitigate the impacts post-havoc, she added.

Tshering Wangmo, 21, a Sherubtse college graduate, is working on making compost from food waste collected in Thimphu. Along with her friends, she used about 300kg of food waste to make compost.

Having seen the amount of food waste thrown in the Thimphu Thromde waste segregation centre, she decided to act.

“We should not wait for a platform but continue our effort in small ways,” she said.

Tshering Wangmo said that there is no age range to contribute towards climate action.

She said: “Youth engagement is important in mitigating impacts of climate change because they are innovative, bringing new ideas that can be transformative.”

Tshering Wangmo needs the community’s support to segregate food waste from other waste.

“It is worth noting that regardless of segregation of other waste, everything goes to the landfill,” she said.

However, she said, as she attempts to reuse food waste for compost, it would be beneficial to segregate food waste from other waste.

“People show concerns about climate change and its impact but many lack action in their efforts,” Tshering Wangmo said.

According to UN environment programme’s Food Waste Index Report 2021, around 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019, 61 percent of which came from households, 26 percent from food service and 13 percent from retail suggesting that 17 percent of total global food production may be wasted.

Sonam Choki Lhamo, 15, a student from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School, said: “Climate change is taking place now but the true impacts will be felt only in the future, which is our time.”

She said that the youth do not expect the policy-makers to take their opinions and make a policy but to acknowledge their efforts and presence. “We are going to be the future policy-makers, and maybe we can bring change in that.”

The climate series is organised by the National Environment Commission, UNDP, Bhutan Foundation, Royal University of Bhutan, WWF, and Bhutan Ecological Society.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk