Maria Horne, New Climate Finance Activist

With the Conference of Parties coming to a conclusion in Sharm El Sheikh, there is a lot of talk about the need for loss and damage financing. Many young people went with the hopes of seeing progress from rich countries pledging to finance unavoidable climate catastrophes in developing countries.

But one climate activist is not waiting. Maria Horne, a Ugandan climate activist has been working to build a fund that supports grassroots youth climate action. The Global Youth Climate Action Fund has so far provided grants to more than ten youth-led projects around the world. With funding received from the Horne Family Foundation and additional funding from their donor base, the GYCAF was able to issue it’s first funding at the beginning of this year.

Maria, who has been vocal about the need to finance youth climate activism and action since 2018 stated that, “This has always been the one thing I wanted to do to give back to the climate community.”

She added, “Many young people have great ideas and solutions to save the planet, but not enough financial backing to bring their ideas to life. We need to change that, and if governments won’t help, we will step up.”

Young people currently comprise 16 percent of the global population and will be the most adversely affected by the impacts of climate change. Organizations like the GYCAF back youth organizations and young people that have solutions that could potentially save the planet.

When asked why climate finance, Maria had this to say, “People don’t seem to take youth seriously. Apart from inviting them to speak on the stage, they never really put their money where their mouth is. It’s frustrating. All young people want is to be heard and believed in. Show us the money.”

Maria went on to say that prior to launching the GYCAF, she was extremely nervous about funding. Together with the team they had drafted a concept of what the fund would look like back in early 2020 with the goal to launch the fund in 2021. But going into COP26, they had not received funding, even after courting a number of organizations for support. It was not until after the conclusion of COP26 in Scotland that Maria knew they would finally launch the first grant cycle.

“I was relieved!” Maria admits. “At that point, we had submitted over 30 proposals and received a lot of rejections. We could have easily given up.”

Maria, 32, credits perseverance and having a clear vision to the initial success of the fund. “Honestly, we were overwhelmed by the response from young people. We received over 1000 applications in the span of 2 weeks causing our website to nearly crash.” With the help of the Youth Fund Board, the GYCAF team was able to narrow down applications to just under 15.

Once the word got out about the GYCAF, the team was able to implement their program as planned, and as of today have organized webinar series on climate finance, started a climate podcast and are developing a climate academy portal for young people. They are planning on launching the second phase of the funding cycle in 2023.

For young people looking for advice, she leaves with these words “Dreams come true. You don’t have to wait for someone else to make it happen. You can do it.”

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