Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (Jul 2020)

Applying a leverage points framework to the United Nations climate negotiations: The (dis)empowerment of youth participants

  • Leehi Yona,
  • Marc D. Dixon,
  • Richard B. Howarth,
  • Anne R. Kapuscinski,
  • Ross A. Virginia

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 1


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Young people are both among the generations to be most affected by climate change and critical advocates for climate action. In the face of growing urgency surrounding the climate crisis, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has become an important institutional framework for political progress. We developed a community-based participatory action research project centered on youth involved in the COP climate negotiations. A “leverage points” approach guided our research; this paper is the first time the framework has been applied in an international negotiations context. Our findings point to the structural power, networks, and paradigms that youth might engage with for international climate justice work. We identify actionable leverage points through which youth organizers might increase their social power in the COP process to bring about climate action. Many of these leverage points are rooted in dynamics of power, which we expand upon and connect to broader literature. Moving forward, these findings can benefit and inform the strategies of youth as they participate in the COP process.