“I feel my own responsibility”
In the series of articles by our Youth Newsroom reporters, Iryna Ponedelnik from Belarus shares how she feels about climate change and climate adaptation.
Iryna: I feel my own responsibility
I was born and raised in Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. Belarus is still slightly affected by climate change, but at the same time, the frequency of extreme weather events changes significantly. For example, in winter there are fewer strong cold waves and more thaws, in summer there are more heatwaves and droughts. The consequences of climate change in Belarus have a significant impact on weather-dependent sectors of the economy and require taking measures to respond to these changes.
When I started to prepare a blog about young people around the world who take climate actions and present their stories for Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference (CAS), I asked myself why locally led adaptation projects are important in my country.
Youth for sustainable development
I am Iryna Ponedelnik, a CAS youth reporter, founder of the initiative Youth for sustainable development, and PR manager for the TeRRIFICA Belarus project.
I started my climate way by organizing the first Youth Conference on climate change in Belarus called (Visegrad Youth Group) VYCA + Belarus in December 2018. I am good at organizing events and networking with people so I decided that it is my personal responsibility to engage young people and talk to them about the climate crisis. After that, I did Climate Interaction lessons, Climathon Minsk, and lessons in the schools.
Those small steps gave me new knowledge, and those co-creation activities are my way of adaptation. At the same time, climate activism gives you a lot of opportunities, for example in September 2019 I won one of 100 “Green tickets” to participate in the UN Youth Climate Summit.
One of the hot issues in Belarus is reducing the effects of and adapting to climate change. Despite Belarus’ national commitments to combat climate change, for example, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and Strategy for adaptation of agriculture and forestry to climate change, there is no clear policy on climate change at the city level. There is a lack of data on this issue, and decision-makers are one the process to find the optimal balance between economic growth and national commitments. Currently, this topic is under pressure after the political crisis in August 2020.
The Association “Education for sustainable development”, together with other Belarusian non-profit organizations are organizing various co-creation activities in Minsk and involving different stakeholders in the development of the climate agenda in Minsk through the TeRRIFICA project.
One of the activities is TeRRIFICA’s crowdmapping tool. It is an online public participation platform for identifying climate hot spots on pilot region maps. For example, if a person knows a park or territory with hot temperatures without trees, he/she could map this on the website. Registered users can mark places related to certain aspects of climate change: air temperature, water, and wind circulation, air, and soil quality.
In Minsk there are 245 points already, most of them related to “temperature”. Our team could know places where people feel comfortable or uncomfortable with the temperature. Those places are evidence for us, and examples of actions that could be used for adaptation. Similar maps have been created for each pilot region of the TeRRIFICA project in Germany, France, Poland, Serbia, and Spain.
I believe that such projects could help our societies to prevent climate crisis and be an adapter for a new reality. Locally led adaptation projects with stakeholders engagement are important in the context of my country. Only by working together with different stakeholders, will we find a way to minimize damage from climate change and live in a better future.
Iryna Ponedelnik (Belarus)