Ms Hunter was speaking from Glasgow where she as attending COP26.
The UN climate conference is exploring the role of youth and public empowerment in tackling the climate crisis.
East Derry MLA Ms Hunter said: “When too many of our world leaders stuck their head in the sand and refused to acknowledge the looming danger of the climate crisis, it was our young activists who put it back at the top of the agenda and forced people to sit up and take notice.
“From the inspirational Greta Thunberg to our own local climate activists in the North, young people have consistently campaigned on this issue and spelled out the need for all of us to act and change the way we live before it’s too late.
“Our young activists realise it’s their own future at stake if we don’t act now to deal with the climate crisis which is already having a massive affect on our environment around the world. If we are going to get to grips with this issue then things will have to change radically in the space of their lifetime. While many take a selfish approach to this issue, our young activists want to protect our planet not just for themselves, but for future generations too.
“We can’t leave all the hard work to our young people. Combatting this crisis will require everyone to make sacrifices and the time left to make the necessary changes is rapidly running out. COP26 needs to be a turning point in the world’s approach to the climate crisis.”