Skip to Main Content

The Unwavering Voice of Youth

Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2024
by Cristina Arnés Sanz


The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai last December, known as COP28, was a pivotal moment for public health, with strong and meaningful youth participation. COP28 included the first-ever Health Day, which brought health to the forefront of the global climate agenda. Over 120 countries endorsed the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health, committing to accelerating climate action and protecting human health.

I had the honor of attending COP28 as a youth representative of YOUNGO, the youth constituency for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I would like to share my journey as a climate and health youth advocate, which led me to COP28.

First, as a member of YOUNGO’s climate and health taskforce, I collaborated with the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) where I am a first-year student. We organized a meeting for other YSPH students to discuss the adverse health effects of the air pollution, wildfires, and extreme weather that many of us have experienced. The students emphasized the need for climate-resilient infrastructure and health systems; the importance of including climate change in education curriculums; and the burden of climate change on mental health.

I brought their input to the Local Conference of the Youth, a youth-led climate conference in Washington, D.C. As one of the youth delegates from across the U.S., I helped to draft the National Youth Statement that we would present to the U.S. government at COP28. I also included the YSPH students’ concerns in the Global Youth Statement, adding their voices to the climate demands of 700,000 other young people from 150 countries.

At COP28, I presented the demands of the Global Youth Statement during Health Day. I spoke on a roundtable about how climate change is affecting our mental health, and what we can do about it. Finally, I discussed my research on climate-sensitive infectious diseases at a panel discussion, as I have contributed to the development of a framework to build climate-resilient health systems against zoonotic and vector-borne diseases.

Now, I want to take a step forward from COP28, as climate action never stops.

In March 2024, young people from Europe, North America, and Central Asia participated in the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, where governments and stakeholders collaborated in an in-depth review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are scheduled for review by the United Nations in 2024, including Goal 13 (climate action). I helped to organize a regional youth assembly for the U.N. Major Group of Children and Youth, which concluded with a Youth Report that voiced the concerns and demands of our region’s young people, who reinforced the importance of addressing climate change and health.

The voices of youth are unwavering. We should put health at the center of all climate conversations and negotiations as it is the most compelling reason to propel climate action. As a future MPH graduate, I feel it is both my purpose and responsibility to amplify this message, as we cannot have healthy livelihoods, nor a healthy future, on a sick planet.

Your Action Item For Change:

Support the Youth Climate Movement and the Local Council of Youth National Youth Climate Statement.

Previous Article
The Tremendous Public Health Opportunity of Climate Action
Next Article
Climate Change and Mental Health: Thinking Beyond Disasters