As the impact of climate change intensifies over time, it is the young people of today who will face the worst consequences. To address this urgent issue, the Aga Khan Academies recently held its inaugural Climate and Environment Conference, featuring students from across the Academies network, along with alumni and prominent guests.

The intensification of extreme weather events and climate change presents a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of youth, especially in developing countries, where the majority of young people live. In surveys cited by the United Nations (UN), 84 per cent of young people agreed that they need more information to prevent climate change, while 89 per cent said young people can make a difference.

One of the ways to confront today’s climate challenge is to raise voices and increase participation, not only to address the changing climate, but to better care for the planet as a whole. This is where the Academies’ conference aimed to make a positive impact, bringing together students from Mombasa, Hyderabad, and Maputo into a single virtual setting.

During the conference held in May, students had the opportunity to participate in a business proposal presentation. Carried out in the style of ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Dragon’s Den,’ students showcased their eco-friendly projects and received feedback from PhD students focusing their research on climate, energy efficiency, and more.

“I was able to learn a lot about our environment and what are some of the possible solutions to the issues our environment is facing,” said Kais Karim Meghani at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa. “I was also able to relate what I learned during the conference to what I have been learning at the Academy, such as when we discussed renewable sources of energy.”

Students also participated in workshops with staff at the Aga Khan Development Network who work to address the climate crisis and better care for the natural world, including Marina Olshanskaya and Dr Hristo Dikanski. The real-world application of environmental solutions was an interesting insight for the young participants.

“I am very fond of nature and the environment,” said Sohana Dhanani, at the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. “The Conference was a great opportunity for me to develop my interest and understanding of the topic. I learned that there are many issues around the globe and just knowing them won't make a difference, but rather doing something to change it will make a difference.”

In addition to meeting colleagues from other campuses, participants also had an opportunity to hear from Onno Ruhl, the General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, and Zahira Virani, the United Nations resident coordinator in Angola — the UN’s highest-ranking representative and leader of the UN country team. Both speakers discussed their work and the importance of taking action today to preserve the environment for future generations to enjoy.

“This conference made me realise how the things I do in my everyday life can be disastrous for our environment,” said Zohina Nayani of the Aga Khan Academy Maputo. “I learned about the things we use daily, such as plastic, and where it ends up once we've discarded it and what happens to it afterward.”

Students also interacted with familiar faces through an alumni panel that was organised during the conference. Alumni discussed how their Academies’ education empowered them to further their studies at university, and how they have carried forward the values they were taught at the Academies to be environmentally conscious changemakers in their careers.