Cornell MBA student Kehkashan Basu addresses one of the 13 events she attended at COP27 in Egypt.

Student prods COP27 to include youth in climate solutions

Kehkashan Basu hopes to kindle positive global change.

Basu, a first-year MBA student at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, moderated the first-ever, high-level roundtable meeting Nov. 10 between government ministers, climate negotiators – and youth – at the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP27) summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

For Basu, youth is the key.

“This was a huge honor, because it’s historic,” Basu said. “The annual climate change conference – that is the Conference of the Parties – has not been very inclusive to young people, but this meeting was a positive step.”

In a COP27 pavilion room packed with 200 young attendees, Basu moderated spirited discussions between the youth and a panel of international environmental luminaries such as Susana Muhamad, minister of environment of Colombia; Mariam bin Mohammed Almheiri, minister of climate change and environment, United Arab Emirates; Diana Barran, minister for the school and college system, United Kingdom; Sebastian Barkowski, special envoy for international climate and energy cooperation, Poland; and Ahmed Al Jameel, co-lead negotiator for Saudi Arabia.

For more than 90 minutes they spoke on youth engagement in global warming mitigation, climate justice, green jobs, finance and resources for youth projects.

Basu, a globally known environmentalist for the past decade, is no stranger to huge international green meetings; this is her fifth COP conference.

She entered the global environmental limelight at age 12 when she founded Green Hope Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit group that empowers young people the world over with knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors to think and act for a sustainable future. The foundation operates now in 26 countries and has more than 300,000 volunteers.

During this visit to COP27, Basu – a 2021 Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” awardee – moderated or spoke at 13 events, including the U.N.’s Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought and the U.N.-Habitat event on “Global Advocacy for Climate Justice.” She gave a talk titled “Building Resilience to the Adverse Health Impacts of Food Insecurity through Climate-Smart Agriculture” at her own Green Hope Foundation event and she was a featured speaker at the Canadian Pavilion on “Climate Finance for Intergenerational Climate Justice.”

Basu continues to push an international youth movement platform forward. “Well, that is our hope from this dialogue,” she said. “From what we heard from the ministers attending the roundtable, it was very positive. The United Arab Emirates was adamant about including youth going forward, as they themselves have a very young delegation of negotiators.”

The next COP meeting – COP28 in Dubai, November 2023 – will be even more inclusive of young people, Basu said. “The ministers, the negotiators and the special envoy reiterated the importance not just for young people, but for women, Indigenous communities and those who are traditionally left out and left behind. We’re moving COP and climate change progress toward inclusivity.”

The process toward inclusivity is slow, Basu admitted, but “The ministers and the negotiators showed up to the roundtable,” she said. “They are committed to turning words into action.”

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Jeff Tyson