The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies, and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action ahead of COP26. Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is stated as a number one priority of the UK government in its recently published Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.
Working with the next generation of young leaders, the British Council globally is planning an ambitious programme for COP26 through its youth networks across the world to engage in discussions about sustainable climate change, leading to COP26 and thereafter.
Through the Active Citizens social leadership training programme, the British Council has encouraged hundreds of thousands of people globally to take action on the issues they care about most. This leads to them taking on some of the biggest social challenges of the 21st century.
The Active Citizens program in Sri Lanka has a network of youth, women activists, influencers, and community leaders who are trained and mentored to act on and address these challenges through Social Action Projects (SAPs). To date, over 5,000 young people have completed the programme in partnership with national and local government institutions, local universities and civil society organisations, having implemented close to 500 social action projects, covering eight provinces benefitting over 200,000 community members.
Facilitatingclimate action advocacy through committed partners
The Active Citizens Social Action Projects bring together citizens, organisations and networks to improve wellbeing for the wider community and those most marginalised. Long-term, community-wide changes include increased community cohesion, better access to services and support, safer communities, improvements in local living environments and other outcomes that lead to fairer and more equitable societies.
Mohamed Husni, Co-Founder/Director, Programme Strategy, IMPACT VOICES – The Social Innovation Intermediary for SDG integration and Systems Transformation, British Council International Climate Champions, and Content Development Team Lead for ‘Active Citizens Social Action for Climate Change’ Trainings in Sri Lanka stated, “Climate Change is not a standalone environmental issue, but an underrated crisis which has multiple implications on our economy, politics, and social justice. It worsens both social and economic inequality in our communities. This is why it needs immediate attention coupled with conscious and strategic action AT ALL LEVELS.”
Joanne Kotelawala, British Council International Climate Champion, Active Citizens Master Facilitator and Content Development Team Member stated, “Climate change is a challenging issue, it requires striking a fine balance between development and sustainability. Research, development and innovation with the right mix of creativity can play a strong role in addressing climate change and influencing more people to take action.”
Anoka Abeyrathne, CEO/Founder, Growin’ Money, British Council International Climate Champion, Active Citizens Facilitator and Content Development Team Member stated “Innovation is at the heart of climate change. We need more creative doers to tackle climate change through new innovations that are really sustainable – as opposed to things that are done for greenwashing. And that’s exactly the kind of people we aim to support.”
This year The British Council Sri Lanka will also work closely with four state universities to develop a youth cohort of 750 Active Citizens skilled up, to work with communities to identify and take action through SAPs. These actions aim to build community resilience to climate induced challenges, climate change mitigation and to protect country’s biodiversity through environment protection.
Local projects win COP26 funding
Eight Social Action Projects were successful in winning grants under the ‘Youth Engagement COP26: Challenge Fund’ programme. This fund enforced COP26 priority areas; ‘Adaptation and resilience’ – helping people, economies and the environment adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change, and ‘Nature’ – safeguarding ecosystems, protecting natural habitats and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.
The Sri Lanka grant recipients include, Women in Climate Action, focusing on waste disposal management based in Moneragala, Youth for Maragala, an environment conservation project located in Maragala and Project Blue: The Next Generation, on conserving marine life and beaches in Colombo and Matara, Eco-optimism, tree planting and social media awareness campaign, Ninjas, a waste management project, Cholai, building community resilience to adapt to environmental hazards, Green World, an organic farming project in Batticaloa and Conservation of Aberdeen Falls.
Undertaking research to create evidence–based climate action plan
The British Council believes in the enormous potential of youth to contribute to build a resilient society to climate change. However, there is a lack of data and evidence to understand youth perceptions, attitudes, challenges and readiness to combat climate change. Therefore, the British Council has undertaken a South Asia region wide research study to understand youth perspectives. The findings will contribute to climate change related programming around youth and climate action.
British Council’s Country Director Maarya Rehman said, “We are extremely excited to champion a diverse array of climate action initiatives in Sri Lanka through our extensive youth network, partnerships with national and provincial institutions, non-government organisations, and sector experts. The British Council is uniquely placed to work towards developing connections and skills for young people and future leaders in the realm of climate action. Youth engagement and our youth leadership programmes will continue to remain the main vehicle for addressing climate change issues at the community level bringing positive change to society at large. Through our overall scope of work in Sri Lanka we aim to actively contribute to the National Action Plan for climate action at a policy level.”