In 2020’s Make Your Mark ballot young people voted both plastic pollution and climate change in their top 5 priority issues. UK Youth Parliament will be campaigning to address climate change at the UK level with a particular focus on making sure that we stop non-essential single use plastics by 2025.
Plastic pollution and climate change more broadly are issues with global impact. We are proud that UK Youth Parliament has a nationwide network of young people working for change. That’s why we have partnered with Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace to make sure that you can take part in meaningful action to address this issue locally, nationally and globally.
This campaign will follow the Plastic Pollution Bill (this is a Presentation Bill – this means that we won’t be campaigning to have the whole thing made law, but will be working with politicians to try to have bits of it included in different laws. You can find out more about it here: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/plasticpollution.html) Although we have campaign actions planned out over the course of 2021/22 the nature of the Parliamentary calendar at the moment means we will occasionally have to respond quickly in advocating for change. In March/April we will kick off our campaign by forming a Campaign Steering Group who will mobilise young people in their areas and advise on when we should get involved/which particular aspects of the Bill we should advocate for.
Plastic pollution facts and statistics.
Stopping plastic pollution won’t be possible without also reducing plastic production. Sadly, end of life solutions like litter picks and recycling are not enough: government must reduce the amount of plastics produced in the first place and make reuse the easiest option for everyone.
The good news is that new laws are being written in the Environment Bill right now: Friends of the Earth are calling on government to seize this historic opportunity and turn the tide on the plastics crisis by setting laws that turn off the tap of plastic pollution. A first step towards achieving this is to end the use of non-essential single use plastics by 2025. Here are some statistics that help us think about the current picture when it comes to plastic pollution and some of the ways this might be linked to the climate crisis. You can use these facts when you’re speaking with your peers or decision makers about the campaign.
- By 2050 plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, weighing at least 937 million tons of plastic to 895 million tons of fish, if plastic pollution continues at current rates (https://www.businessinsider.com/plastic-in-ocean-outweighs-fish-evidence-report-2017-1)
- The average Briton’s annual plastic waste includes 242 plastic bottles, 109 single-use coffee cups and 209 crisp packets (https://www.circularonline.co.uk/news/poll-reveals-typical-brits-annual-waste/)
- Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans. (OSPAR, 2009)
- 12 million tonnes of plastic are poured into the ocean every year. (Eunomia, 2016)
- Plastics consistently make up 80% of all marine debris studied. (IUCN, 2020)
- There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes. (Eriksen, 2014)
- 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually. (UK Government, 2018)
- Approx 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK. (Marine Conservation Society, 2016)
- Producing one tonne of plastic generates up to 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. (Material Economics, 2018)
- Plastic production has been forecast to grow by 60% by 2030 and to treble by 2050. (Center for International Environmental Law, 2019)
- Less than a third of all plastic in the UK is recycled. (PlasticsEurope, 2020)
- 63% of people want to reduce their consumption of plastic and 77% want the government to take more action to protect the ocean (Surfers against Sewage, May 2020).
UK Youth Parliament launched their national campaigns calling on the government to address the climate emergency, mental health concerns and access to higher education. The year-long campaigns are set to challenge decision makers to do more to ensure young people’s mental health is prioritised in the coming year, to create free, lifelong and inclusive higher education and lastly to stop non-essential single-use plastics by 2025.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “Young people have a clear ambitious vision for our future, and it’s important decision makers take action to address our concerns as we commence our recovering from this global pandemic.
“In our vision for a better society young people have been clear they want action on the climate emergency, they wish to see young people’s mental health given the attention it deserves and a government that invests in the young people of today by providing free university education.”
Members of Youth Parliament believe the climate emergency remains one of the biggest threats to our planet. Amongst many other issues, members across the country have agreed plastic pollution will have a serious impact on our current and future generations. The group of outspoken young people have stated national and local leaders in government must act to halt the impact of climate change with young people’s voices at the centre of decision making.
Mental health has remained a priority repeatedly for young people across all nations with the issue reoccurring as a top priority on six occasions within UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot since 2011. Research from the British Medical Journal revealed deterioration in mental health is clearest among families already struggling, reinforcing concerns from young leaders that mental health must be kept at the heart of the government’s approach to pandemic recovery.
UK Youth Parliament have also joined forced with other campaigners to reiterate the importance of providing free higher education in England. The youth-led pressure group, believe that university is a gateway to success in life and should be freely available to all. The campaign intends to call for reforms to access to universities to prevent young people suffering financial hardship and not reaching their full potential.
Each of the campaigns have come about following UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot of young people across the UK. The ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council and supported by UK Parliament, concluded young people felt access to higher education should remain free as a priority.
We are excited to announce the British Youth Council’s support for Teach the Future, a campaign to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis and ecological emergency.
For a number of years, the British Youth Council have worked to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship education to the curriculum. The Youth Select Committee’s report in 2013 ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools falls short of its full potential, and ever since, youth representatives across the country have demanded concrete commitments from the government to improve this. In 2018, the Government listened to some of our recommendations by committing to mandatory sex and relationship education. However, this does not go far enough to prepare young people for their future.
It is clear that the scope of the current citizenship curriculum is far too narrow and must be broadened to educate young people on wider political and constitutional rights as well as global issues including sustainability, and the climate. A vital finding of the Youth Select Committee’s report on a Curriculum for Life was that young people are willing and eager to take part in shaping the curriculum to ensure that it addresses the issues which they are facing. All too often schools do not take full advantage of this creative energy. Young people know what issues they face, and should be given the opportunity to shape the curriculum to address their concerns. Through observing the recent school strikes and the full breadth of climate activism, it is undeniable that young people are passionate about doing all they can to protect the planet and attain a greener future.
However, research from the Green Schools Project showed that just 4% of students feel they know a lot about climate change, whilst polling last year showed that 68% of students want to learn more about this, and 71% believe that climate change education should be part of the school curriculum. The appetite among young people to learn and take action is being squandered. Young people want to protect the planet, which is why in November of last year, Members of Youth Parliament gathered in the House of Commons and voted to make Protecting the Environment one of their campaign priorities for the next year. The British Youth Council backs this widespread action and enthusiasm to learn about climate change amongst young people and supports the multiplicity of climate action projects being carried out by young leaders across the country.
All of this is why we have become a supportive partner of Teach the Future! Along with dozens of other organisations and activists, we are calling on the Government to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis which we now face. We want the Government to review how the education system prepares young people for the climate emergency and the ecological crisis, along with including the climate emergency in all teacher training.
You can find out how you can support the campaign by visiting the website at www.teachthefuture.uk
UK Youth Parliament have launched their national campaigns, ‘Protect Our Future’, which demands action to halt the climate emergency and ‘Youth Action on Knife Crime’ which calls on the UK Government to address knife crime as a public health issue. Young people declared climate change a top concern with knife crime also becoming a priority for the second time.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “The climate emergency and knife crime are the biggest issues facing young people and politicians must work to address their concerns with some urgency and with young people’s voices at the table.”
The climate change campaign recognises the situation will only be improved by the combination of individual action and government-level change. Members of Youth Parliament believe the government must act to halt the impact of climate change. UK Youth Parliament state young people’s voices should be at the heart of decision making as they will be most affected by climate change in the future.
Knife crime remains a priority for the UK Youth Parliament, following a year highlighting the prevalence of knife crime in the UK. This years campaign will continue to back the Youth Violence Commission’s calls for the Government to adopt a public health approach but will also call on the Government to roll back the use of ‘stop and search’ as a method of addressing knife carrying.
Each campaign was chosen following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019.
UK Youth Parliament have chosen to focus on the climate emergency and knife crime in 2020. The new campaigns have been declared following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019. Climate change was declared a top concern in the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot of over 800,000 young people.
The annual session was chaired by the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP and Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing MP over the course of one day. Passionate speeches and eloquent arguments were made on the most important issues affecting young people. During the debates, UK Youth Parliament debated ‘ending knife crime’, ‘mental health’, ‘curriculum for life’, ‘tackling hate crime’ and ‘protect the environment’.
UK Youth Parliament is made up of young people from across the UK, who are elected by 11-18-year olds in constituencies to represent them and use their voice to raise the issues which affect them. At the end of the day, Members of the Youth Parliament walked through the famous voting lobbies of the House of Commons to select climate change as the petition to be debated by MPs in the new Parliament.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said “It is so important that young people are politically engaged in politics today, and that is why it was my pleasure to preside over the 11th sitting of the UK Youth Parliament.
Not only were the debaters very skilled, I am quite sure many of those taking part will be returning to our green benches in the years to come.”
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which organises UK Youth Parliament, said: “Climate change and knife crime are two of the biggest issues facing young people, according to the UK Youth Parliament’s ballot.
“Members of Youth Parliament took these issues to the heart of our democracy, Parliament, and it is now for MPs and Government to ensure action is taken to address these issues.”
Members of Youth Parliament are set to formally launch the campaigns during their day of action in January 2020. UK Youth Parliament have started to develop campaign actions for the campaigns ahead.
The British Youth Council is launching ‘Our Parliament, Our Vision’, a manifesto which outlines our vision for the next UK Parliament. The manifesto sets out the four priorities that we want the next Parliament to address the issues of young people including climate change and mental health.
Young people want the next Parliament to do more to achieve the zero net emissions and tackle climate change, reduce the voting age to 16, put an end to poverty in our communities and recognise that our minds matter. The priorities were established through a process of consulting young people across the UK about the issues they cared about.
The British Youth Council has written to 17 political parties – including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Labour. Each party has been asked to respond with their thoughts on our top four issues. The youth-led charity is due to publish the responses ahead of polling day on Thursday 12th December 2019.
A spokesperson for the British Youth Council said: “Candidates across the UK, seeking to represent young people, including those that can’t vote, should listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do address their priorities”
The manifesto forms part of our wider General Election campaign calling on politicians to not just talk about young people but to listen to their concerns and do something about them. Following the General Election, the British Youth Council will be lobbying the Government and calling on politicians to keep their promises to young people.
On Saturday 21st September 2019, I had the privilege of travelling to the United Nations Climate Action Summit as the UK’s nominated youth delegate. This summit, occurring immediately before the United Nations General Assembly that began on Monday 23rd September, was intended to offer a platform to young people to meaningfully engage with decision-makers to create a greener and sustainable future. As the UK’s youth delegate, my role at the summit was to share the views of young people from the UK with senior officials, advocating for positive climate action on your behalf.
The fact that I departed for the summit on Friday 20th September was significant for two reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, this was the day when over four million (yes, you heard that right – four million!) incredible people from across the globe took to the streets in protest, demanding urgent action in order to save our planet. Secondly, this was the day that the British Youth Council’s Youth Policy Group submitted its review on government policy in the areas of waste and recycling, climate change and youth engagement to the government departments responsible for protecting the planet. In this review, we highlighted young people’s environmental priorities and concerns while also recommending methods that the government could explore to engage more effectively with young people. It was the sentiments echoed in this report, and by young people on the streets, that I carried into the summit with me.
So now onto the summit itself! It was simply incredible. 1,200+ young people from over 120 countries all united by one purpose – climate action. At the summit, I attended workshops on all manner of issues, learning about the link between climate change and young people’s human rights, about the steps we are taking to transition to the use of clean energy and about how it is those who pollute least who are impacted most. I’ve summarised my key takeaways below that I would like to share with you all, to give you a flavour of some of the recurring themes that came from the discussions I was involved in:
Change is happening!
During the summit, I heard how major employers are becoming more environmentally conscious because this makes their businesses more attractive to prospective employees, how major polluters such as the shipping industry are committing to becoming net-zero in terms of their emissions and how the views of young people are being considered in policy-making decisions at the highest levels. It’s clear to me that the tireless campaigning and passion of young people is beginning to have an impact and create meaningful change. This makes it more important than ever that we continue to campaign, striving to increase the pace of change and change the attitudes of everyday people.
Individual actions matter – don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise!
Often, we fall into the trap of believing that our individual actions are insignificant, believing we do not have the individual power to create change. Being surrounded by young people from right across the globe and hearing about the impact they have had in their local communities really highlighted to me how one person can make an impact. You never know who is watching, so we must continue to always lead by example and inspire others to change their ways. The most powerful demonstration of this can be seen through the story of a young woman who requires no introduction. In August 2018, Greta protested outside the Swedish parliament alone. A year later and 4million people joined her. You’re never too small to make an impact on the world. As climate activist and avid explorer, Robert Swan pointed out: ‘the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that somebody else will save it.’ So, don’t wait for other people to lead, be advocates for change within your own lives – then you will automatically inspire others!
Young people are not only being heard but are leading the way – we need to keep at it!
The event, held at the UN HQ, began with a panel of leading youth activists from around the world (featuring the one, the only Greta Thunberg) who were discussing their priorities for the planet. Interestingly, the UN Secretary-General (the most senior official within the UN) joined the panel as a ‘keynote listener’, sending a powerful signal that the UN was open not only to working with young people but to actually allowing them to drive conversations. This theme continued throughout the day, with young innovators pitching technological solutions to the climate crisis, such as the storage of data inside plants (how cool!) to panels of industry experts. The fact that the UN is ready to work alongside young people to drive change is a positive sign and is something that should give us hope. We are leaders in this fight, and we have to keep leading!
So, they’re my takeaways. But, how can you get involved? Remember that small individual actions can have a global impact. Your actions matter as much as anybody else’s does. Why not ditch the car and walk when you can? Could you commit to having a day each week free of single-use plastics? Try shopping for second-hand clothes to reduce the amount of ‘fast fashion’ items to the landfill? Or how about lobbying the decision-makers of our country, and of our world, to encourage them to create pioneering climate policies? We can all have an impact, and each and every one of us has a part to play. Let’s go save the world! (literally!)