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World Biological Diversity Day: Young climate leaders are speaking out

Young activists strike for the current emergency facing our climate
Young activists strike for the current emergency facing our climate Copyright SAEED KHAN / AFP
Copyright SAEED KHAN / AFP
By Maeve Campbell
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This International Day for Biological Diversity, we look at what’s going on in the run-up to COP26.


This year has already seen its fair share of unsettling climate news. For the first time, the Amazon rainforest was recognised as a net emitter of greenhouse gases. The increased melting of glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic is causing the earth’s poles to drift.

Today’s young generations are surrounded by 60 per cent fewer wild species than was the case 40 years ago. Climate change, the unprecedented loss of biodiversity, and the spread of devastating pandemics are sending a clear message: it is time to fix our broken relationship with nature.

As we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May 2021, the global community is gearing up for a summit marathon that many hope will be even more decisive for climate action than the landmark agreements closed in 2015 with the Paris climate accord.

Six years on, what’s changed?

Young people have been more vocal about biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental degradation than ever before, forcing political decision-makers to take notice and pass climate laws for the real world. What’s more, the latest generation of climate activists is ready to take a seat at the global negotiating table and political and business leaders are advised to listen closely.

In the run-up to the Biodiversity COP15 in Kunming in October and the Glasgow Climate COP26 in November, one forum that consciously pursues inclusive programming to give a stage to many diverse and young voices is European Development Days, held on 15 and 16 June 2021 with a focus on biodiversity and a green economy.

Some 17 young leaders and environmental activists are already confirmed to speak on this year’s panels and to express their views on the need for coordinated action to preserve ecosystems around the world: among others, Rida Boutros from Lebanon, Nomsa Betty Kamanga from Zambia and Richard Wambua from Kenya.

  • Rida Boutros is a plant biologist from Lebanon. Besides working full-time as a project coordinator at AVSI Foundation, an Italian NGO, she is also raising awareness for the importance of youth involvement in biodiversity, reforestation and sustainability issues.

In her recent address during the Mediterranean forest weeks, she directly addressed political representatives. In her speech she requested more job opportunities for the youth, noting “how can we convert the new generation if we do not include the youth.’’ At EDD, she will share her views on how to mobilise resources to increase protected areas.

  • Nomsa Kamanga lives in Mawabe, located in the eastern part of Zambia, and works as an assistant researcher for the Zambian Carnivore Programme. She conducts field research, monitors and collects data on lions, wild dogs, leopards and hyenas. ‘’Living in a place where different types of species have been hit by threatening factors made me realize that there is a role to play for everybody in the conservation world.’’, says Nomsa.

Conserving large carnivores and the ecosystems they reside in through science, action and local leadership is at the core of what she does and moreover, what she stands for. Nomsa’s experience will be crucial to the EDD panel on wildlife trafficking and protection.

  • Richard Wambua is a progressive, hard-working Kenyan entrepreneur who founded the Meforest Initiative that addresses climate change via green tech through an innovative web and mobile application called GreenPap.

The app was chosen by the government of Kenya as the official tree planting, survival and monitoring tool. Richard is dedicated to developing Kenya, Africa and the global community to become more progressive, peaceful, sustainable and economically thriving. In his EDD panel, he will debate with UN leaders on how forests contribute to global biodiversity and food systems protection.

European Development Days take place in a fully digital format on 15 and 16 June.

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