Written by Candice Banks, CNN
Despite the recent disappointing results from the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, a few themes emerged from the gathering of world leaders and climate activists at COP 26: young people’s determination to protect the planet and grassroots support for more ambitious action.
This can serve as a wake-up call for the political leaders gathering in Katowice, Poland, this December to hammer out a new global agreement to curb climate change.
Almost immediately following the climate change conference in Paris, the non-profit Climate Action Tracker ranked Europe the EU behind the United States and China in its report card for the global carbon emissions being generated by the private sector and its impact on the climate. As well as failing to keep pace with those industrialized economies, a key point was the decreasing CO2 emissions from transport, a sector singled out for improved quality of life and reduced pollution.
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Researchers agree that people living in developed countries need to take a greater responsibility in ensuring the planet’s future with recent findings finding that greenhouse gas emissions are falling in many emerging countries. In a report published last week by Oxford University, researchers found that China and India accounted for most of the decrease in global emissions between 2013 and 2017.
Around the world, people across the board are taking action to address the issue of climate change, from increasing the speed of car emission upgrades, to organizing #YoungEarth campaigns to pressure governments to make environmental issues a priority.
In Glasgow, Scotland, 22-year-old Mijailo Mijailovic is the founder of the #YoungEarth campaign — a campaign that aims to “inspire and equip our peers in life’s big decisions and milestones with the knowledge, tools and the drive to start their own effective climate action.”
Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook have become vital tools of activism to post pictures of former ‘poster children’ who, their parents said, would know the importance of fighting climate change. The youngest US ‘poster child’ was Shasta Ryan, a 16-year-old girl who raised $11,000 for climate change activism. She was one of thousands of young people to participate in climate marches across the US in June.
However, in the UK, despite the government’s endorsement of the UK Climate Change Act 2008 (a climate bill which aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020), many young people do not feel their voices are being heard.
“The lack of ambition on climate change which comes from the UK’s notoriously slow Parliament is unacceptable and needs to change,” says Sam Evans, president of the Youth Climate Coalition. “Voters will judge that Parliament was not the driving force behind this change when they go to the polls in 2020.”
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Research from SustainAbility finds that young people are taking a more active role in climate change activities — voting in greater numbers and using social media to raise awareness of climate change and make environmental issues part of their everyday life.
More than 15,000 delegates arrived in the Polish city this week to begin negotiating a new global agreement on climate change. Many scientists are calling for an ambitious set of policies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is now a question of life or death for the global community.
Many young people are urging our political leaders to remember the importance of climate change as a national security issue when they head to Poland to hammer out a new global agreement on climate change.
In Japan, 14-year-old megastar Takuo Misa is calling for a 10% increase on solar energy targets to reach 20% of electricity use by 2030.
The UN-sponsored Go Global campaign, also based in Glasgow, wants young people to work with political leaders to transform young people’s energy into political action.
In any case, 1.5°C (versus 2°C) would be disastrous for our species. So while climate change is a global problem, it is one tackled by different groups — and in the end all can play their part in reducing climate change.
For those who can afford it, going greener with climate-friendly appliances and building energy-efficient homes is beneficial — avoiding the need to rely on fossil fuels. But, perhaps most importantly of all, everyone can use their voice to demand action — and to apply pressure on our political