From Climapolis to COP: young people in Armenia lead climate action
Yerazik and Narek on how they advocated for the Armenian Government to sign the Declaration on children and climate action.
Narek and Yerazik, 18, are from the town of Vedi in Armenia's Ararat province. Last year they participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, as the first young delegates from Armenia to represent the voice of their generation.
Narek is a student at the American University of Armenia (AUA). Since childhood he has had a passionate interest in environmental science and climate issues. For him, participating in COP28 gave him the opportunity to participate in critical discussions on climate change and speak out on a global stage for the first time.
"In 2021, along with a group of friends, we founded a start-up initiative, a game entitled Climapolis, in Vedi. Its primary goal is to raise awareness around climate change and provide players with knowledge on what actions can be taken at different levels. Our region is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which prompted us to take on the challenge of addressing this global issue within our community,"
He emphasizes that the game consists of two main components: one part educates players around climate change, while the other part is the actual board game that visualizes the effects of climate change on a community. Their team took Climapolis to a Generation Unlimited international competition, led by UNICEF and partners, where they emerged as one of the winners in Armenia, securing a small amount of funding for further development.
According to Yerazik, the seven-day conference surpassed all expectations.
"Each meeting left us thoroughly content. Despite the packed schedule, we didn't experience fatigue; our enthusiasm was unwavering. We departed from Armenia not merely as members of Armenia’s delegation but also as trailblazers in the battle against climate change and as representatives from our region, a duty we deemed incredibly significant,"
Yerazik says that the two engaged in discussions with fellow delegates from various countries, sharing insights into actions taken and their rationales. "Through these exchanges, a common realization emerged: our primary objective at this juncture is focusing on human change and not the changing climate. While there's often an emphasis on changing external elements, the discourse rarely delves into the transformations within us. It's imperative to discern the steps we must undertake and those from which we should refrain," she says.
“As part of our discussions, we engaged with representatives from Colombia, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Oman, and Serbia. The young representatives from Serbia had conducted substantial research on air pollution in their country. We decided to collaborate, aiming to tailor our board game to their context," Narek explains.
The network of connections and newfound friendships from COP27 held paramount significance for these young individuals. Particularly for Narek. As a visionary and a dreamer, personal growth takes center stage: "Drawing a comparison between my pre-COP self and the person I am now, the transformation is remarkable. I've grown in confidence, gained deeper insights into climate matters, and possess a clearer understanding of the proactive role my friends and I must adopt to combat these challenges," he says.
Following the conference, Narek and Yerazik joined forces with UNICEF National Ambassador Malena to orchestrate a climate change awareness campaign to educate young individuals about the issue.
These days, Narek and Yerazik are busy advancing their start-up, Climapolis. They have already reached young people across the country who have completed the learning part of the game. "We're reinvigorating Climapolis and laying the foundation for a climate champions academy, a hybrid initiative encompassing both online and offline components. This academy will serve as a platform for young individuals to deepen their understanding of climate change," Narek elaborates.
The beginning of big changes
Following the conference, Armenia, led by Ministry of Environment, became the first country in the region and the 38th globally to endorse UNICEF’s Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth, and Climate Action.
"Armenia officially signed the declaration in January 2023, solidifying its dedication to listening to and addressing the concerns of children and young people within climate change initiatives and policymaking. UNICEF will continue to ensure that children and young people are involved in decision-making processes, providing them with platforms to express their opinions and recommendations,"
Since 2020, the UNICEF office in Armenia works with the Austrian Development Agency and Armenia’s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to empower and engage adolescents and young people in climate action. In 2022, UNICEF worked to engage leading young advocates in the Armenian delegation, further empowering them to advocate and encourage others to join the call for firm commitments from the Government.