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  • Writer's pictureATREE CERC

Moulding future Climate Leaders

CLP participants from 2018 engaging with International change makers from Kanthari in Vellayani Lake cleaning.

In the year 2016, a 14-year-old girl Greta Thunberg shook the world with her simple but powerful school strike for climate. The reason- why would I go to school if my future is under threat. She was not able to believe that despite having widespread consensus among scientific community on human impact on climate change, policy makers and corporates were not taking it seriously. Her movement gave power and strength for many more young leaders who wanted to question policy makers and big corporates on their inaction.

Young learners have immense potential in influencing change and a small trigger of knowledge and exposure can boost their confidence. This thread led us to the curation of the Climate Leadership Program along with SUSTERA Foundation and the support of ANTRIX Corporation. The leadership program aimed at selecting young leaders from across Kerala and train them on Climate Change and Sustainability. The goal of the program was to provide an open and inclusive platform for youngsters to come think and collaborate and take action towards impact of climate change.

In 2018 we held the first CLP with 12 youngsters who were selected from across Kerala after a very intense selection process. The program was done in collaboration with various research and civil society agencies from across India. The leaders got to interact with community members from Alappuzha with who they discussed the issues associated to livelihoods, impact of pollution on their water and also vulnerabilities to climate change. The first few days they got to interact with social entrepreneurs from Kanthari, an institute which train change makers from across the globe. They also got to involve with cleaning up of Vellayani lake which has been polluted by water weeds. Further the 6 days comprised of several learning and thinking sessions. Towards the end the leaders agreed to take up a campaign to reduce pollution caused due to plastic straws which then turned out to become the “No Straw” campaign. The campaign was instrumental in inspiring reduction of plastic straw use in campuses across Kerala.

Climate Leaders from 2019 visiting paddy fields in Alappuzha which are below sea level.

The second edition of Climate Leadership Program-Kerala Chapter 2019 happened from 9th July to 14th July 2019. This year the program was held in collaboration with SUSTERA Foundation, ATREE-CERC and Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA). 15 young leaders of age group 20-35 were selected from 260+ applicants who had applied for the program. We attribute the increase in number of applicants to the floods that had affected Kerala in the year 2018.

The program was launched with an ice breaker session by Sujith Edwin followed by an Introduction to Vembanad and Wetlands by Jojo T.D ,project coordinator of ATREE-CERC. Later on they discussed about the Climate Change issues that Kerala is facing at the moment and future possibilities.

Mr Gopinath Parayil a disaster expert interacting with Climate Leaders

The leaders also went through a mock Conference of Parties(COP) and discussions on intended nationally determined contributions. A discussion with CANAPLY (CanAlappuzha) team was organised on the third day of the program which involved presentation and discussions on the strategy adopted towards awareness, sensitization, mobilization of citizens and local stakeholders. This was followed by sessions on “Climate change and Agriculture” by Raju S from Thanal Agroecology Centre, Planning for Sustainable cities by Dr. Mohammed Firoz of National Institute of Technology Calicut , Building Resilient Communities- repurposing tourism to address climate crisis by Gopinath Parayil, Threatened Biodiversity by Dr. Ranjan Mathews, state coordinator of WWF, Insects for future by Dr. Priyadarshanan Dharmarajan, Senior Program coordinator of ATREE Banglore and many more in the consequent days.

The leaders also got the chance to meet Dr. T.M Thomas Isaac, the honourable Minister for Finance and Coir who shared his insights on how one should be addressing climate change for the protection of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive areas of the state, particularly picking the issues pertaining to the region of Kuttanad.

Climate Leaders from 2019 interacting with farmers from Alappuzha.

All the climate leaders pitched their project ideas on what they intend to work forward as well as they have come up with a draft for youngsters to take leadership programs on climate change and importance of climate crisis which is attached with the press release.

Climate Leaders interacting with Dr Thomas Issac, Finance minister for Kerala

The CLP has been instrumental in motivating several of the campaigns that ATREE CERC is now associated with. The leaders who have been trained have been working in their own capacity in climate research, policy and climate action. In the recent LSG election held in Kerala, one of the Climate Leaders got elected as Ward member for Karakulam Panchyat. A proud moment for the whole CLP community. Despite the teams efforts, there is even more need for such programs that can guide young leaders who want to take up climate based career and help solve the crisis.

The Author is Mr Sanju Soman, who worked as Senior Program Officer with ATREE CERC.

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