UN Permanent representative Elizabeth Spehar and US ambassador Judith Garber on Wednesday brought together ‘Youth Champions’ from both sides to learn about environmental leadership.

The programme, run by Unficyp, is in its second year, hosting 30 Youth Champions for a two-week course with monthly events to support continued engagement, the US ambassy said.

Garber paid tribute to the programme and those like them that bring Cypriots together to “solve real problems”, then spoke about what the US was doing to address climate change.

“We are asking the major economies of the world – not only to set ambitious targets, but to develop clear plans for how we’re going to reach those targets over the next decade,” she said. “By 2023, countries need to have road maps for how we’re going to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050”.

The US has also set a goal to reach 100 per cent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035, Garber said.

She told the participants that they know their home country better than anyone and that there were real actions they could take to have an impact, suggesting an increase in the use of public transport and bicycles, and taking steps to increase home energy efficiency.

“Local actions like this, one-by-one, add up to an enormous impact,” said Garber. “But it takes a leader to advocate for that change. And that leadership can come from all of you.”

In her comments, Spehar said the world was headed for a climate catastrophe unless radical action is taken. “I believe in the youth of Cyprus, who are also increasingly active global citizens,” said Spehar.

“We need to continue to support their passion, commitment and action to combat climate change, promote peace, and heal the environment. That is the way of the future. The alternative is unthinkable.”