On Thursday 8th December, 12 Members of Youth Parliament represented their regions at a COP27 roundtable with officials from the UK government to talk about climate change. In attendance were representatives from DCMS and the Department of Education, Baroness Barran, negotiators from COP27, and a specialist on the circular economy. It was brilliant to deliver a presentation on behalf of the young people in our regions, and hear the officials’ thoughtful responses to our suggestions.
The primary focus of our presentation was the need for more youth participation in government climate strategies. We emphasised the need for participation opportunities for young people at conferences and annual climate events, and how youth voice and concerns regarding climate must be taken into account through clear and transparent communication.
To restore young people’s trust in the government’s sustainability plans, young people need knowledge of present and future climate campaign plans, which is only possible through the continuous involvement of diverse young people at every stage of decision-making, including the accountability and presence of young people in all COP zones.
As well as integrating youth voice in climate decision-making, we stressed the need for increased support of sustainable decisions in education. This includes the provision of more comprehensive resources for teachers on topics such as fast fashion and green jobs (in partnership with organisations working on sustainability within those fields), whilst ensuring that young people in non-mainstream education aren’t excluded from climate discussions.
We discussed how, for the government to deliver on its promise to decarbonise by 2050, there must be improved green options, in areas such as housing and transport. This could include better financial support for home insulation, and improving public transport routes in rural areas. To fully decarbonise, sustainable options must be paired with the termination of bad practices. We emphasised the need to continue to shift dependency from fossil fuels to renewable sources, through innovative measures such as government advocacy for community energy, and increasing provisions for local councils to set up solar and wind farms to support residents to source their energy sustainably.
Furthermore, the role corporations play in climate justice must be acknowledged. We suggested the introduction of a green accreditation scheme for businesses, similar to the red tractor label in farming, to incentivise businesses to monitor and improve their practices, and encourage consumers to make sustainable choices. We considered the importance of conserving and restoring natural forests in the UK, as a vital means of preserving biodiversity, and the role nature can play in repairing our planet’s broken climate.
The potential loss of environmental habitats, increased consumption of non-renewable resources, and higher pollution are all consequences of an economy solely based on growth, and we discussed what circular economy practices might look like, and how the government can implement them at speed to prevent further damage to our planet. These methods included the adaptation of old technologies, limiting intentional waste (for example electronic waste and plastic pollution), and the introduction of schemes such as deposit return schemes to conserve our planet’s valuable resources.
Although we discussed positive actions and practical solutions, we were only able to skim the surface of young people’s views on climate change. Our overarching aim was to emphasise the importance of government involvement of young people, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue.