(Photo from YSDN_Official on Instagram.)

The inaugural Youth Sustainability Development Conference was held in Atlanta this past weekend. The theme of the conference was energy justice.

As the world shifts away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future, the conference sought to emphasize a just — fair and equitable —  transition, and why it’s important the youth of today are knowledgeable about ways to realize this transition.

The conference had panels sessions for attendees to learn more about energy justice, as well as a couple case study roleplay sessions. The case study sessions saw hypothetical scenarios — based on real world situations. 

The first session put participants in the shoes of an urban planner for a city whose residents are struggling with energy burden — the percentage a household spends of their gross income on their energy costs, as defined by Energy.gov. According to the Climate and Energy Policy Lab at Georgia Tech, “Atlanta ranks 4th highest in median energy burden levels [behind Memphis, New Orleans & Birmingham] and 3rd highest among low income household populations”.

The second session took an international perspective and challenged participants to think through integrating a renewable energy system in their fictional region.

The conference was conceived more than a year ago. Since then, countless hours have gone towards making it happen. Clare McCarthy, a masters student in public health at Emory University who has led the effort in coordinating conference logistics, said it was great to see the efforts come to fruition.

The idea came about, McCarthy says, from Dr. Eri Saikawa, an associate professor at Emory University at the Rollins School of Public Health.

“This was all her idea, she has amazing ambition and vision… we started meeting around last August. She invited myself and some other students, as well as Dami [Hamid Balogun] who is the CEO of the Youth Sustainable Development Network,” McCarthy said.

The Youth Sustainable Development Network is based in Lagos, Nigeria. It regularly hosts conferences like these to “foster an enabling environment which can lead to a more sustainable and resilient future by 2030” according to the organization’s LinkedIn.

Given the positive reception for the conference this year, those involved with planning are hoping that next year’s conference can approach an even larger international component.For now, though, Emory University will continue advancing the themes of the conference and climate change with their Emory Climate Talks blog series found here.

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