Creating the Next Generation of Climate Leaders
A weak – close to non-existent – climate education has resulted in an alarming lack of awareness and knowledge about climate change in Hong Kong. Civic Exchange believes a paradigm shift is crucial and our youth will play a central role in addressing Hong Kong’s climate issue. With this in mind, and with the support of the Environmental Conservation Fund, the Young Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) Programme was created.
In May 2021, Civic Exchange recruited 40 students across local secondary schools to embark on a journey to become climate change “Issue Experts”. The programme was centred around a LEARN-ACT-LEAD model and aimed to instil in students a sense of climate urgency, introduce them to new ways of thinking, offer them an opportunity to strategize climate action, and prepare them to be leaders in their own community. Hoping to stimulate reflection and response among students on both individual and collective levels to cultivate our next generation of climate leaders.
The “LEARN” phase was conducted over the summer holiday of 2021. In partnership with Press Start Academy, participants learned basic climate science, sustainable development goals, Hong Kong’s policy landscape for sustainability development, and the city’s decarbonisation pathways. YEAs also honed their design thinking, public thinking, public engagement, campaign and project management, storytelling, and presentation skills, all integral for the ideation and execution of their own climate projects. Civic Exchange reached out to pioneers and leaders in the sustainability scene for experience sharing, including a visit to Mil Mill, the first paper pulping facility in Yuen Long. Through expert sharing, YEAs gained first-hand exposure to the ongoing efforts of local climate fighters who are leading the way for tackling climate change in Hong Kong.
Following the acquisition of fundamental skillsets, the “ACT” phase was initiated with the whole cohort divided into 9 groups to carry out projects on their own topic of interest. Project topics span across buildings and energy, nature conservation, waste and recycling, sustainable lifestyles, and transport and mobility.Instructor and the founder of Press Start Academy Vince Siu, guided each group’s project development through monthly check-ins, mentoring the YEAs to turn knowledge into action and disseminate climate knowledge in their respective communities.
The project period lasted one school term, after which an online (due to the 5th wave COVID outbreak) showcase was held in February 2022 for groups to share the process and outcomes of their five-month project execution. Professionals from the sustainability field were invited to judge the presentations. A group which had organised their own eco-tours to educate their peers on the biodiversity in wetlands and mudflats secured the champion award at the showcase. All the teams made remarkable efforts and carried out fruitful campaigns, such as an inter-school second-hand clothing swap and hiking trail clean-ups, just to name a few.
A closing/prize presentation ceremony was held in May 2022 to mark the end of the programme. However, it was just the end of the beginning. The programme is simply the beginning of the YEAs’ climate journey as they now enter the “LEAD” phase. We hope that the seed we have planted in the YEAs will someday flourish and bloom into the upcoming generation of climate leaders, who will spearhead action to achieve Hong Kong’s climate goals.
The YEA programme displayed the potential of Hong Kong’s youth who are becoming increasingly aware of, interested in, and concerned for environmental issues. If given more time outside of the school curriculum, offered the right training and encouragement to think creatively and systemically, and shown assurance that their voices are heard and valued, I believe many more young people in the city will be willing to contribute to Hong Kong’s low carbon future.
We must mobilize youth to be part of the solution to climate change. It is their future that is at risk, and therefore their right to steer and cultivate their future.
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