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The federal government is searching for a dozen young people to sit on the Environment and Climate Change Youth Council for the next two years.

The council has a broad mandate, from participating in international summits to consulting with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) on policy, educational campaigns and more.

“It's critically important that people who are my age and who are youth are at the table and … also have their opinions heard in the making of these policies. Because it is an issue that impacts youth so, so acutely. I think any policy that doesn't have a youth perspective applied to it would be incomplete,” said Michael Girum, co-chair of the youth council.

The youth council is available for ECCC policymakers to consult on various policies, for example, Canada’s biodiversity strategy and National Adaptation Strategy.

“A lot of these targets are 20, 30, 40 years away,” said Girum, referring to Canada’s emissions reduction targets and commitment to protect 30 per cent of land and water by 2030.

“It's people who are my age in their late teens, early twenties, who will be the leaders at the time when those targets have to be delivered.”

Girum, 21, and his fellow council members were the first cohort appointed in 2022.

Until April 26, Canadians and permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 29 can apply to be part of the second group.

“I encourage young people from every walk of life to apply, and I look forward to working with passionate youth and hearing their important perspectives,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault in a press release. Guilbeault will appoint volunteers for the youth council for a two-year period, during which they will provide the minister and department with non-partisan advice on Canada's environment and climate policies.

"I think any policy that doesn't have a youth perspective applied to it would be incomplete,” said Michael Girum, co-chair of the Environment & Climate Change Youth Council. Applications are now open for the next round of youth council members.

Current youth council members hail from different provinces and territories and have wide-ranging experience and skills. Girum is from Calgary and pursuing a finance degree. Geneviève Doiron was raised in Halifax, studies at McGill University in Montreal, and is involved with Divest McGill. Skw'akw'as Dunstan-Moore is a Nlakapamux and Yakima youth from Lytton, B.C., and is involved in a broad range of climate and human rights initiatives. Other members hail from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Yukon.

The current round of applications aims to reflect as many different regions, identities and life experiences as possible, according to ECCC.

“We do the very best that we can to represent as diverse and as broad a range of youth as possible,” said Girum, adding that this is no easy task.

“We all have our own localized individual networks that we're always engaging with and always taking perspectives from,” said Girum. For example, a few days before meetings with stakeholders, he and other council members will often tap their organizational and social media networks to gather input from other climate-engaged youth, Girum explained.

In the lead-up to the last two international climate conferences, the youth council met with Canada’s chief negotiator, and two members hosted an event at COP28, said Girum.

In addition to those higher-profile activities, the youth council also discussed environmental communication strategies with ECCC.

“We consulted on the ad campaigns. We consulted on education strategies for people around the country to get a better idea of what is going on in the environment and what the government is actually doing,” said Girum.

When offering input on various policies, particularly the biodiversity strategy and national adaptation plan, “one of our biggest focuses has been … centring reconciliation and Indigenization at the heart of ECCC’s work,” he added. Girum thinks this input was particularly valuable and impactful, adding that his experience with the youth council was “fantastic.”

The time commitment varies from month to month, but Girum estimated over two years, he probably spent, on average, five hours per month on youth council work.

It's great the youth council is growing from 10 to 12 members because “I think there's always a feeling that you could do more,” he said.

“I think as long as a keen interest in the environment and making a difference is brought to the table sincerely, anyone can be a member of the youth council,” said Girum.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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