On 9 September 2021, an expert panel joined hundreds of others online to discuss and debate the role of young people in climate change solutions. They also pledged their support for a global call-to-action aimed at the world’s leaders, asking for young people to have a greater role in the climate conversation.
This online event marked the launch of the findings of the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action – a global research exercise, supported by the Climate Connection, to amplify the aims and aspirations of more than 8,000 young people, across 23 countries, on the future of climate action, and to provide recommendations for leaders and decision-makers on how to involve young people in climate solutions.
The views and concerns of young people gathered during the research have been used to write a collective global statement from young people on climate change – the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action – that directly addresses the world leaders attending the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.
And in the lead-up to COP26, more and more young people are being encouraged to join the thousands of young people who contributed to the research by signing up to voice out their support for the letter online, as part of the 8,000 Rising online exercise.
By garnering as much support as possible from young people globally, it is hoped that the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action will become an important document for leaders and decision-makers – now and in the future – on how to make climate action as inclusive as possible.
How young people view climate change and their role in it
So, what does the research say in relation to young people and climate change?
A strong, unanimous voice emerged from the surveys, focus groups and crowdsourcing methods – and that voice is calling for more opportunities for young people to be included in the climate debate and policy decisions on climate change. Linked to this is the fact that 67 per cent of young people believe their leaders cannot address climate change alone.
The research also shows that, while 75 per cent of young people around the world believe they have skills to deal with climate change in their communities, these skills are not being utilised, since 69 per cent have never participated in climate action initiatives, due to barriers to meaningful opportunities to get involved. Young people also express concern that the voices of women and minority groups are overlooked in current climate change policy.
To support more youth involvement in climate solutions, the research also puts forward a series of recommendations. These include developing forums for young people to express their views and sentiments towards the future of our planet and their place in it, encouraging young people to come to the forefront of these conversations, and developing consultation structures to ensure young people are heard.
To engage underrepresented people and hard-to-reach communities, the research proposes new consultation and awareness raising opportunities such as an app, or for those with limited or no digital access, other channels such as printed materials, civil society organisations and educational settings. It also proposes building the skills of young people, the unemployed and those in rural areas by offering new training opportunities, hosting mini COP summits and integrating climate change in the school curricula.
Amplifying the global youth voice
The panel event on 9 September was the first step in amplifying the findings of the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action. Attended by hundreds of young people online, it sparked lively conversation in relation to the issues uncovered in the research.
Chaired by Rushati Mukherjee, a producer with the BBC World Service and alumnus of the British Council’s Future News Worldwide initiative, the panel covered topics such as the impact of climate change on women, minorities and the Global South, making underrepresented voices heard, bridging the digital divide, and how to make climate language more inclusive. They also answered questions posed by the live audience.
The event included a video message from Alok Sharma, COP26 President Designate, who stated that youth engagement in climate action is a key priority of the COP26 agenda:
‘The key message from the British Council’s Global Youth Letter is that young people are motivated, they are ready to learn and inspired to act on climate. But I have also heard [young people] ask to be included in meaningful participation, and for improved education and training.’
‘So, as we plan for COP26, we’re doing all we can to respond to these needs. And we are committed to making progress on education, training and empowerment through the principles of action for climate empowerment.’
To ensure as many youth views are included at and beyond COP26, the Climate Connection is still encouraging young people globally to pledge their support for the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action, and get their voices heard! Click here to add your voice as well. See highlights from the launch event, find out more about the findings of the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action research, and add your voice now!