Youth-led innovation has the power to transform societies and sectors alike.
Their creativity, unique perspectives, and determination are vital to carving a path towards net zero. With each step they take, young leaders are contributing to a greener, more sustainable world, shaping a better future for themselves and generations to come.
However, unlocking the vast potential of youth requires key stakeholders — specifically governments, private sector companies, and civil society organisations — to support and amplify the efforts of young people. Achieving this goal also necessitates supporting educators, who are pivotal in instilling the requisite knowledge, values, and skills in young people aiming to make a difference.
Last year, IRENA launched a network to provide educators with the tools and innovative practices needed to successfully integrate renewable energy into their curriculums.
This year, we expanded our youth-focused initiatives further, launching the NewGen Renewable Energy Accelerator Programme (NewGen), focusing on capacity building, mentorship, and offering a wide range of resources dedicated to supporting youth-led projects and start-ups in the renewable energy space.
Participants enrolled in the programme, such as Esmeralda Colombo at Green Power Plus, who created an expert network leveraging the economy for planet, people, and profit, and Adan Ramirez Sanchez at Greenfluidics, who has empowered developers to revitalise green buildings through microalgae, recently showcased their projects for the first time at IRENA’s Innovation Week in Bonn, Germany, to an audience of government leaders, experts, and private companies.
The young entrepreneurs also participated in discussions on the latest developments around decarbonisation and showcased their own solutions to some of the energy transition’s most pressing challenges.
According to IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook, annual additions must more than triple to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. As the lead organisation on the energy transition, we have listened to young people through our annual Youth Forum and identified the main areas of priority to maximise their potential and involvement to accelerate the energy transition to the necessary speed and scale.
Firstly, governments should provide more incentives, policies, and regulations that encourage the development and adoption of renewable energy solutions by create a more supportive environment for young people to implement new, innovative ideas.
Secondly, private sector companies should invest in renewable energy solutions and support start-ups and young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that can help accelerate the transition to green energy.
And thirdly, civil society organisations should provide training, mentorship, and networking opportunities for young people working in the renewable energy sector. This can play an important role in their raising awareness of and advocating for policies that promote a just and sustainable energy transition.
In the coming weeks, agenda-setting events, such as the regional climate weeks in MENA, Latin America, and Asia, along with IRENA’s own Investment Forum in Uruguay later this year, will bring young pioneers from around the world to the forefront of the climate discussion.
As each milestone approaches, all stakeholders in the energy transition, especially in the lead-up to COP28, must work together to create a supportive ecosystem that enables young people to innovate and make meaningful contributions to the transition to renewable energy.
It is our duty to usher in the next generation of energy pioneers and elevate them onto platforms that would allow them to reach decision-makers with their ideas.
COP28, which aims to be the most inclusive COP to date, will be one such platform.
We hope our efforts will help young people to deliver the change they want to see and to build a future they would be proud to be a part of.
Gauri Singh is the Deputy Director General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)