WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Young people living in Pacific Rim countries want to see more ambition from their leaders to see the money dedicated to a common fund to tackle climate change and prepare for future pandemics.
There were two messages delivered to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday by 124 youth delegates participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.
This year due to the pandemic the forum is being hosted in a virtual format and ends this weekend with a leaders meeting. The US and China are among the 21 members of APEC and account for 60% of the world’s economy.
Ardern took the unusual step of meeting and questioning youth representatives. New Zealand youth participated in person while other representatives participated online.
She said that the one APEC science festival she attended in South Korea when she was about 17 was a big influence on her.
“I, as a young person living in a town of just 5,000 people in rural New Zealand, never knew such a convention existed,” Ardern told him. “And it opened my eyes to completely new cultures and experiences.”
He said that the youth should not underestimate their influence.
One of the youth representatives asked Ardern how countries could be held accountable if they did not act on climate change.
“If the world is not prepared to take bold action, the world must be prepared for the devastating consequences of climate change,” Ardern said. “So those are the two options we have.”
Ardern said she wanted to acknowledge the huge impact the coronavirus is having on young people, from education to mental health.
Other points made in the youth manifesto, submitted to Ardern by Representative Jess Jenkins, were that tech companies should be held accountable for protecting data and privacy, and that marginalized people should be given priority.