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Young people are the key to achieving global climate targets.
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Young people are the key to achieving global climate targets.


At the UN climate conference COP26Discussions center on how young people and the general public can be empowered for a more sustainable future. Participants at the conference stressed the need to protect the environment for our children’s future.

Joe Biden, US president, gave his opening remarks asked an audience of fellow leaders: “Will we act? Will we do what is necessary?… or will we condemn future generations to suffer?”

Similarly, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued that “young people around the world are already paying the price for the reckless actions of their elders” during Youth4Climate, a gathering for young people that was held before COP26.

“I saw protestors earlier on”, he added, “and frankly they have every right to be angry with those who aren’t doing enough to stop climate change.” These words from a world leader highlight the power of youth protest to put pressure on government negotiations.

However, the lack of direct communication youth inputThese statements can be reassessed by UN climate talks. Although it is profoundly insightful the speechesCOP26 delegates were poor substitutes for participating in policymaking processes. feel excluded.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is surrounded by children
Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the value of youth activism at a children’s press conference ahead of COP26.
Number10Gov/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND

Young people all over the world are aware of this fact. working hardWhile there are efforts to increase the visibility of climate change on government agendas they tend to be seen as subjects, rather than agents of change. This is disappointing as it means that many people are still viewed as subjects rather than agents of change. my researchResearch has shown that the number of people who are able to afford it is increasing. youth involvementIn political decisions leads to more durable and effective public policies across the board range of issues.

London is an example of this. Policies to tackle knife crime and policing have been more successful in London since young voices were included. Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit, an expert group that contributes to policymaking

And my analysisThe 17 is how young Londoners engage with it UN Sustainable Development GoalsThe city has been able to develop practical and effective solutions to address climate change in London. This includes introducing free bikes, reducing the cost for public transport, and growing food in urban spaces.

Youth Action

In recent years, young people’s lives have been continually reshaped by waves of crises. The 2008 financial crisisThere are many concerns about the future of youth, including the recession and pandemic, as well the climate emergency and the climate emergency.

A graph showing the political priorities of different age groups in the UK
Research shows that nearly half of the UK’s 18-to-24-year-olds believe that the environment should be a top priority in government action.

This is evident in the political prioritiesyounger generations. The results of a YouGov poll published on November 1 show that 43% of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK believe that “the environment” is the most important issue facing the country. Comparatively, 31% of over-65s agreed and 35% of all adults agreed.

Youth representation

These priorities are being implemented. Young people were at the helmMany of the climate strikes took place in 2019 all around the world. Although strikes were initially organized by a loose group of campaigners, groups, and platforms, a new generation emerged quickly at the forefront.

These included Greta Thunberg (Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2019), Louise Neubauer(Organiser of the German Climate Strike Movement), Leah NamugerwaThey are well-known for their support of tree planting and banning plastic bags from Uganda. UnusuallyFor a youth-led social movement much of this momentum was translated to policy changes, including a flurry new targetsFor reducing carbon emissions.

Young, radical political representatives have also been empowered by the acceptance of a climate emergency, such as Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, a US congresswoman. Her push for a climate emergency was also a catalyst for her push to establish a Green New Deal in the US – a sweeping set of policies aimed at addressing climate change – has directly influenced the environmental prioritiesBiden administration, which announced this year a climate-focused initiative infrastructure improvement plan for the country worth around £1.5 trillion.

Other countries have seen an increase in electoral support for environmental parties, which is also correlated with youth climate advocacy. The German Green PartyFor example, in the 2019 European parliament election and the 2021 federal elections,, it was the most favored party among the under-30s. It even gained sufficient supportIn 2021, to join the coalition government in Berlin: Proving that youth voices can directly impact the direction of government policy.

Irrespective of COP26’s youth representation, young people continue to reshape environmental policy from the ground up – a process that we can help speed by inviting more youth into the rooms where climate decisions are made.

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