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Will Steel: Gaining a new perspective at COP27

Will Steel MRTPI is Principal Planning Consultant: Infrastructure (UK and Europe) at Atkins.

I attended COP 27 representing the Commonwealth Association of Planners Young Planners Network (CAP YPN).  CAP YPN is one of the Commonwealth Networks which form the Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanisation (CYSU) initiative. It works alongside the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, and the Commonwealth Engineers’ Council.  

My role was to help to apply for, host and speak at COP 27 events, and to network with a view to promoting the CYSU initiative.  The steering group was successful in securing several side and pavilion events which were held at the conference, promoting the role of youth (including young professionals) and sustainable urbanisation in tackling climate change.  I was involved in two events at COP 27 as follows:

  • Youth for Sustainable Urbanisation - Building Capacity of Youth Towards Sustainable Development Goad (SDG) 11, at the SDGs Pavilion as a panellist; and
  • Transforming to Sustainable Cities with Youth, at the Children & Youth Pavilion as the moderator.

Both of the above events received great feedback, and we gained new prospective partners from organisations from around the world. 

The SDGs pavilion event provided an opportunity for CYSU steering group members to have the floor and discuss their respective insights, providing a multi-disciplinary perspective on sustainable urbanisation and the role of young people. This was the first year that COP has included a Children & Youth (C&Y) Pavilion, so it was an honour for CYSU to feature in the programme for this very popular pavilion. Our event at the C&Y Pavilion was held jointly with Switch (Japan), Mock COP, and the Climate Youth Negotiator Programme. The event provided insights from around the world on sustainable urbanisation, the role of young people, and how to enable youth participation.

Will at the SDG pavilion 

One thing which stood out from attending the conference in person was the momentum and energy behind youth participation in initiatives to tackle climate change, and to achieve the UN’s SDGs.  One moment which encapsulated this was when a young person stood up at the end of the discussion session of our C&Y Pavilion event, and passionately demanded action now to enable youth to have a meaningful voice in key decision making processes. This was greeted with applause and cheering from the crowd.

From the discussions during COP 27 on the need to find ways of de-risking and co-ordinating investment in actions to address climate change and loss and damage goals, as a Town Planner it struck me that one way to help this to happen would be to roll-out and strengthen spatial planning.  There was much talk during COP 27 on the need for more co-ordinated and integrated approaches to combating climate change, which meet the needs of local communities. Spatial planning could be the missing link which enables and co-ordinates investment in climate action and loss and damage initiatives, and which integrates the needs of the world as a whole with those of communities on the ground.

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