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18 May 2018
BRICS Youth Energy Dialogue Explores Energy Transitions

Youth Energy Dialogue: Energy Transitions - Implications for BRICS Countries

Energy security for all citizens in the developing world will no longer be a dream if BRICS countries have anything to do with it.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC), in partnership with the Student Representative Council and the Department of Energy, played host to the BRICS Youth Energy Dialogue on 18 May 2018, on a bustling campus alive with Africa Day festivities.

The theme for the summit was Energy Transitions: Implications for BRICS Countries.

Representatives from the five-nation bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met to discuss the implications of energy for the developing world, and the place of youth in this issue.

The day started with presentations by Masikana Mdleleni from the South African Institute for Advanced Material Chemistry (SAIAMC) and and Sivakumar Pasupathi from Hydrogen Systems South Africa Centre of Competence (HySA Systems) respectively, which included their progress and initiatives in clean fuel and hydrogen.

Wide-eyed delegates were given a tour of the Life Sciences building and were treated to the innovations, safety procedures and operations, courtesy of UWC students and researchers. (Keep your eyes peeled - you could see a hydrogen-powered car, bike or forklift in the near future.)

The dialogue touched on a variety of topics, from the responsibility of the youth to the sustainability of energy.

Anton Inyutsyn, Russian deputy minister of energy, said it was the job of everyone in the room to realize potential. He said students in Russia have established a BRICS youth group that actively engages with important issues.

“Our countries have become more and more developed, and the potential for economic growth in our countries is very big,” said Anton. “The youth have fresh ideas. This is very useful for us.”

Brazilian delegate Carlos Pires stressed the importance of working together, and that transitions would not be possible alone.

“Each country has its own peculiarity, history, social and historical development,” he said.

Brazil, for example, learned its own lessons from its dependence on oil after an economic boom in the 1970s, and invested heavily in hydroelectric dams.

“It is important to find our own way to make our energy transitions,” said Pires.

Energy, security and environmental change are community challenges, explained Chinese delegate Nan Hu, adding that BRICS countries are creating an “environmentally friendly society making it possible for our use in the future” to experience rapid growth for the world economy.

She also invited young people from BRICS countries to China to “work hand in hand and cooperate closely, and experience the achievement of a sustainable economic environment and engage in exchange with our young people”.

UWC pharmacy student Kaylen Hendricks said the talk was eye-opening.

“I wish it could have been more intensive in unpacking the socioeconomic implications with regards to energy transitions,” she said, “but I feel it’s necessary that youth receive exposure to these issues.”

UWC politics student Siyanda Kobakana was encouraged by the dialogue.

“Whenever we speak of energy we must be contextual, because each country has different needs,” he learned. “They are trying to shape the future, but they realize that they cannot do it without mobilizing the youth - because we are the future.”

South Africa joined the BRIC group in 2011 as the only African nation, and is chairing this year for the second time. South Africa’s priorities for the year include: vaccine research; a BRICS gender and women’s forum; a working group on peacekeeping; and leveraging the strategy for BRICS economic partnerships.