The first-ever Cambodia Youth Climate Change Conference (CYCCC) marked a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to address climate change.

The April 1 conference brought together 116 participants, including high school and college students, specialists from several organisations and journalists from approximately 33 institutions.

The vision of the conference was to educate and expose youth to the biggest challenges of climate change through an interactive dialogue between experts and fellow youth.

“I understand that many youths can relate to that feeling of helplessness, of wanting to act but not knowing what to do,” said Angely Rose, the founder of CYCCC.

“So today, I hope you can find your voice, I hope you can talk to others and share your feelings, your knowledge, and empower one another to start doing and continue to be the Earth’s steward for many more years to come,” she added.

The conference aimed to bring passionate youth together for fruitful academic discussions surrounding climate change, resulting in the ideation of various solutions to be incorporated in youth’s daily lives and in their communities.

The conference served as a youth forum to give them a voice to speak up about this global issue and collectively join hands towards making active changes.

“Although climate change is a worldwide issue, it is important to start making changes on a small scale that have a broad impact,” said Rose, as she addressed the conference.

“This means that every person, family, community, city, province, and country needs to work together as a collective to make a difference. It all begins with each individual taking action, starting today,” she added.

More than a year ago, Rose, a student at the Liger Leadership Academy, envisioned creating the first-ever CYCCC to be entirely youth-led. Her dream was finally realised.

“I felt frustrated and helpless. The world is slowly moving towards a point where we cannot turn back to what it was before and I did not know what to do, but I knew I needed to change that mind-set,” she said.

The urgency of the climate change issue was emphasised by Pheav Sovuthy, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Environment. He spoke about the undeniable scientific evidence that has resulted in dire consequences for the livelihoods of people in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is facing serious risks due to the effects of climate change. The Kingdom’s economy is dependent upon agriculture, a sector that climate change will heavily affect,” he said.

“The economy will be undermined due to other loss of infrastructure or resources as a result of climate change. This is why the government is working actively to combat climate change in both a local, national, regional and global level,” he added.

The conference introduced panel discussions and keynote presentations that provided the participants with an educational platform to help them deeply understand the ongoing impacts of climate change in Cambodia.

The discussions were centred on the importance of taking immediate action to mitigate the impacts of climate change and the need for innovative solutions to address the issue.

They also had the opportunity to network and build relationships with like-minded individuals and experts in the field.

“The CYCCC was a resounding success, and the participants left feeling inspired and empowered to take action in their communities,” said the organisers.

Pengsan Huon, talent activation senior manager at Impact Hub, shared about his journey working with youths in environmental projects all over Cambodia with his Movers Programme workshops and how he became a committed climate advocate.

“He shared from his experience joining a climate summit in New York where youth knocked from one door to the other to advocate for this problem in their communities,” said Rose.

She said this is what inspired him to start working on youth engagement to raise the awareness of climate action in Cambodian youth.

“He inspired us by saying that we don’t have to be perfect to start to act, as long as our actions are intentional and genuine due to our love for the Earth,” she added.

Sovichea Saron, the founder of Niron – a project focused on the reduction of the demand for luxury wood for furniture that is being implemented by USAID Green Future Initiative – also addressed the assembled youth.

Rose said he shared details of his role as a leader in a youth environmental project and called for other youth to start concrete actions to join hands in combating climate change.

Rose also described how Puthealy Vin, a project coordinator at Young Eco Ambassador, shared several different youth engagement methodologies such as storytelling events, campaign highlights where they showcased youth projects, and a project called Media for Nature that serves to engage audience on social media.

“The conference was a testament to the power of youth and their ability to drive change and make a positive impact on the world,” Rose said.