Young people will inherit today’s problems, so they should be part of today’s solutions. Yet, too often, they are the unheard voice on climate change. Here we look at how the British Council’s Climate Connection programme is inspiring young people to take collective climate action by connecting them to the climate conversation.
Young people see climate change as the most critically important challenge facing our world today, yet through our cultural relations work, we regularly hear them calling for more of a voice on this and other global issues.
During the Conversation for Change panel session, the British Council’s Chairman Stevie Springs stated: ‘young people are the ones with the drive, the creativity, the commitment, the ambition to make really positive change. But they tell us consistently and constantly about the challenges they face in really influencing that change.’
This lack of a voice and inability to influence the climate conversation is seen by many working in climate change circles as the missing link to effective climate adaptation and mitigation, and, not including young people in decision making could be detrimental to climate policy in the future.
On a recent Climate Connection podcast, Jouja Maamri, climate activist and UK delegate to the G7 Youth Summit, said: ‘without us having a say in some of the policy that is being drafted or some of the decisions that are being made today, we’re going to have to deal with the consequences of either those policies not being inclusive enough, not being far-reaching enough or not being radical enough, so it’s really important that young people do have more of a say.’
Connecting young people to the climate conversation
To bridge the link between young people and the wider climate change debate, the British Council’s Climate Connection programme is connecting young people globally to leaders, policy makers, artists, academics, experts and each other to develop collaborative solutions to the climate crisis.
Alison Barret, the Climate Connection’s project director says: ‘the programme will enable more innovative, creative and sustainable solutions to our shared climate crisis, and puts young people at the centre of climate change solutions, by giving them a platform to participate in dialogue, debate and action.’
Key to the Climate Connection is its cultural relations approach – that is, connecting young people through arts and culture, education and a shared language to find new solutions. In this way, it empowers young people to respond to the climate crisis in ways beyond protest and political engagement, and to come together in a global cultural exchange about their vision for the future.
One young person using creative expression to influence change is artist Caelan Moriarty  , whorecently told the Climate Connection: ‘as an artist, I’m using my voice to influence people. We are the generation to decide now on what we want our future to look like. Today’s actions contribute to our future. Learning is the first step towards climate action. We want to discover the truth about climate change, share what we know with our friends, and decide on how to act now.’
So how exactly does the Climate Connection engage young people? Here we look at some of the programme’s key projects giving young people the opportunities to raise their voice, get their ideas heard, take action and make informed decisions about their futures.
Amplifying the unheard voice
Drawing on the views and opinions of more than 8,000 young people across 23 countries, theGlobal Youth Letter on Climate Action is a collective call for action directly addressing the leaders of COP26. It gives key insights in how young people perceive climate change, their aims and aspirations for the future, and the role they want to take in climate action. Other young people can contribute to this collective statement through the 8,000 rising campaign.
Climate cities is giving young people the chance to join conversations on how climate change is being addressed by cities around the world, particularly in the Global South, who are most affected by environmental challenges. The project brings together city leaders from across the globe to find shared solutions and take collective action on issues such as climate mitigation and its effects on culture and heritage.
Supporting ideas and action
#DestinationZero is about supporting young people to take their climate innovation ideas to the next level. From more than 200 entries across 43 countries, ten finalists have been selected to work directly with expert mentors on developing their unique solutions to the climate crisis, from plastic lumber and eco-friendly cement, to temperature regulating wall panels and composting bins made from single-use plastic.
Young climate activists across 22 countries are receivingchallenge grants to develop and carry out social action projects aimed mobilising community action to tackle the climate crisis. Their projects work towards building sustainable communities, creating greener schools, empowering young people, protecting natural habitats and raising awareness of the impact of climate change.
Fashion Open Studio x COP26 is supporting fashion designers who are leading change the industry and responding to themes of nature and adaption and resilience to showcase their responses to fashion’s environmental impact. By opening their studios to the world virtually, audiences get the opportunity to explore the processes, practices, techniques and values behind each designer’s work and consider how fashion can work with nature and communities, rather than against them.
Creating pathways for the future
Young people interested in pursuing a career in the green industries can gain key insights into the array of roles and career pathways thanks to the Climate Connection’sgreen careers guide. This growing repository includes webinars from recruitment specialists, universities and UK university alumni, as well as inspiring stories from those working in green careers.