6 steps to ensure young people can participate in climate policy on equal terms

Pin to Areas of Work
Young climate activists in the Caribbean
Photo: UNDP Barbados and Eastern Caribbean

When it comes to global climate negotiations, 2025 is a pivotal moment.

Under the Paris Agreement, every five years, countries must increase the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), making sure their national climate pledges are aligned with limiting average temperature rise to well below 2°C, while striving for 1.5°C. The next revision of NDCs is due in 2025 and, on the heels of the hottest year on record, will likely decide how our future will look like.

No one is more invested in the future than young people. As the world grapples with the multi-dimensional planetary emergency of nature loss, environmental degradation and climate change – further exacerbated by rising inequality and insecurity, conflict and health crises – young people are faced with an increasingly dismal future. Despite this outlook, they refuse to be mere bystanders and stand as catalysts for change. In fact, the rise of the global youth climate justice movement in recent years has played a defining role in accelerating climate action.

As countries are preparing the next revision of their NDCs, we must ensure that young people have a seat at the table and are meaningfully engaged in shaping humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Meaningful youth participation in policymaking and youth empowerment are not just a necessity, but a fundamental human right, aligned with the right to a healthy environment. As such, it’s imperative that young people’s rightful demands are not only heard but heeded throughout the NDC revision and implementation processes.

A roadmap for meaningful youth inclusion

To support countries in developing climate policies that respond to the needs and demands of young people, UNDP has created On Equal Terms, a checklist providing guidance, entry points and insights to ensure young people are engaged and valued equally to other stakeholders in NDC revision processes. The checklist was informed by a global youth survey of 335 young people from 78 countries and draws upon UNDP's extensive experience in working with climate stakeholders and youth organizations worldwide.

This dynamic checklist adapts to diverse local contexts, providing concrete suggestions on how governments can actively engage young people across six key stages of the NDC process. Here are our recommendations:

1. Demonstrate political commitment.

The first step to meaningfully engage young people in NDC processes, or any climate policy, is to make a clear political commitment to do so. Such commitments, including binding ones, have already proven effective. A staggering 77.9 percent of young people involved in our survey reported not being involved at all in their country’s NDC formulation. Furthermore, 62.5 percent perceived this exclusion as a systemic issue.

A fundamental shift in mindset is needed among decision-makers, to see youth as agents of change and their engagement as key to increasing and realizing climate ambition. Governments must take the political decision to invite young people to co-shape actions, strategies, decisions and outcomes of the NDC process and allocate the necessary financial, logistical and technical resources to support these efforts.

2. Map the diversity of youth organizations.

Often, conventional stakeholder engagement mechanisms “cherry-pick” organizations or individuals to be involved in NDC consultations, to the exclusion of other groups. This process can lead to rigid and hierarchical structures of civil society engagement, as well as greater division between privileged and marginalized groups.

By carrying out a mapping of youth organizations active in their country, governments can identify underrepresented and particularly vulnerable groups and offer them a seat at the table. Establishing a more inclusive and representative structure for youth engagement – taking into account gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, disability and other aspects of a person’s identity that can limit their access to decision-making – is essential to enhancing the legitimacy of the NDC process.

3. Get the information out there.

The dissemination of information about NDC processes often occurs opaquely and without proactive outreach. For example, open calls are sometimes only posted on the website of the respective government authority and not broadcast widely or targeted to the various climate stakeholders.

To ensure that the calls for participation in NDC processes reach as many young people as possible, it is thus essential that governments and other actors employ outreach strategies that meet young people where they are. This must be done in all the languages of a country or territory, in different formats, online and offline. Young people can also be asked to co-create the call for participation and disseminate this information to their own networks.

Young climate activists in Georgia
Photo: Gela Bedianashvili/UNDP Georgia
4. Build the capacity of young people to engage.

To ensure that young people can successfully contribute to the NDC process, governments must help equip them with the technical knowledge and skills to participate effectively. Our survey showed that 65 percent of those who have previously participated in NDC processes did not perceive it as successful in addressing young people’s concerns and ambition on climate action.

Therefore, capacity building and training are essential for improving the quality of young people’s participation in both the formulation and implementation of NDCs. For example, decentralized training solutions and learning materials that reach young people in their own locations and languages, such as pre-recorded videos or sessions conducted by regional and national officials, are one of the solutions that governments can pursue in this sense.

5. Create and sustain an inclusive NDC design process.

After completing the steps above, we reach the most pivotal phase of the process – the consultation itself. Since all countries have to revise their NDCs every five years, it is important that youth engagement is fostered and maintained throughout to ensure their participation in the design and consultation phase.

The trust and active participation of young people in NDC consultations largely depends on their ability to influence the agenda and the selection of representatives on equal terms with the organizers. By opening up consultations in a meaningful way, governments can seize the opportunity to garner young people’s perspectives, capture insights that may not arise in regular procedures, and foster mutual trust.

At the same time, governments must ensure that after the consultations take place, they clearly communicate with the young people involved on how their inputs were integrated into the text of the NDC.

6. Provide oversight and accountability.

Transparency is also a crucial determinant in the success of an inclusive NDC process. Including young people in monitoring the implementation of NDCs helps enhance transparency and accountability, while fostering a greater sense of ownership. Young people can also support defining key performance indicators to monitor and assess NDC progress.

At the same time, governments can create mechanisms and channels for young people to report irregularities and areas for improvement or share success stories on NDC implementation. This must be done in a way that guarantees young people will be protected from retaliation for sharing their views and concerns.


Governments and stakeholders worldwide can leverage the On Equal Terms checklist to make young people full participants in every stage of NDC revision and implementation. Young climate leaders, youth practitioners and development partners can use it as an advocacy tool for meaningful youth engagement in shaping sustainable and inclusive climate policies for generations to come. Download the checklist now!

UNDP’s Climate Hub delivers the UN system’s largest portfolio of support on climate action in more than 140 countries. UNDP’s flagship Climate Promise initiative has supported more than 80 percent of the world’s developing countries on their NDC submissions, including by actively promoting meaningful youth engagement in NDC revision processes.