With increasingly more young people taking the global stage in advocating climate action, the side-event on “Increasing Climate Ambition through Capacity Building Among Youth and Educators” at COP25 in Madrid was particularly relevant and timely.
As one of the panel speakers at the event, Susana Guerreiro (MESPOM batch 9), from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT-RRCAP) and co-founder of the Sustainable Energy Youth Network (SEYN), shared some reflections on the importance of engaging youth in concrete climate action. She explained how the Youth Energy Academy (YEA) empowers young people by providing spaces for experiential learning and tools to conceptualize, develop and build renewable energy projects.
Youth Energy Academy (YEA)
The first Youth Energy Academy in Asia was held last November at the AIT campus in Thailand andbrought together 27 participants with various backgrounds (from engineering to public policy, or liberal arts), from 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia. Susana explained that the 7-day programme combined sessions exploring the role of decentralized renewable energy and communities in addressing energy related challenges, with practical workshops on energy systems design and construction.
Using tools like design thinking, problem tree analysis and the social business canvas, participants discussed and refined problems, explored solutions and possible business models for their project ideas. They visited and learned first-hand from a community energy project and from case studies in the region.
Through a “do-it-together” approach participants built a range of energy systems - a solar box oven, two parabolic ovens, a solar dryer, a solar sound system/charging station, 15 power banks and a solar water pump, using reclaimed materials whenever possible - in just under 30 hours. The most striking Susana added, is that “most knew nothing about energy and had never used a power tool”.
The sense of achievement and empowerment gained through this approach was highlighted as a key feature by the panellists, who pointed out that “learning is most powerful when it is connected to reality”.
A second edition of the YEA will take place again in Thailand in 2020, while the organizing team is exploring the possibility of implementing the programme in other locations.
For more on the YEA check out the video.
The YEA was made possible by the financial contribution of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the participation of several partners and speakers than enriched the programme: UNESCAP, UNDP Altfinab, Chiang Mai University, Nexus for Development, Leeds Becket University and Yunus Centre AIT.