2019 – Can young people drive Green Action?
Blog by Jessica Ralston
The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) took place in December 2018 in Kratowice, Poland, an area dominated by a coal-powered history. In light of recent research which shows a rise in global carbon emissions over the last year, it was encouraging that the conference placed importance on pinning down the specifics on the Paris Agreement climate change targets. However, it was disappointing that only 29 out of 198 countries who attended the historic summit in Paris attended the 2018 Conference.
Highlighting that climate change is likely to be devastating to biodiverse ecosystems and human civilisation as we know it, Sir David Attenborough acted as the ‘people’s chair’, connecting policy makers to the public’s opinion. Planet Earth II, a 2016 programme presented by Sir David attracted 1.5 million young viewers (aged between 16 and 34) and during his opening speech Sir David explained that time is running out to act on the changing climate and the younger generation particularly want to see action taken to reduce emissions now before it is too late.
This was a recurring theme throughout COP24, so much so, some Australian children refused to attend school during the Conference on account of inadequate action being taken by Australia’s current government on climate change. In February 2017, almost half of 14 to 18 year olds (43%) in the UK were considering a career in science and more 18-34 year olds are ‘very concerned’ about climate change than any other age group. This shows that the younger generations are more aware, more concerned and therefore more likely to act on climate change, including pursing careers in science which could help to combat it.
Encouragingly, the UK Government has clearly recognised this and is running the first ‘Year of Green Action’ in 2019, focussing on engaging young people of all backgrounds with environmental issues, a part of the wider Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. Raising awareness and promoting working together across demographics to tackle climate change is an initiative the SEA fully supports and will be engaging wherever possible with Green Action throughout the pivotal year ahead.
At COP24, the IPCC’s special report into the effects of global warming to 2°C compared to 1.5°C faced some unsurprising resistance from the fossil fuelled US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait. Nonetheless, discussions did ‘take note’ of the report. Energy Minister Claire Perry has asked the Committee on Climate Change to provide evidence on how the UK can limit climate change to 1.5°C, the lower end of Paris Agreement targets.
We were pleased to see industry’s reaction to the announcements made at COP and agree that there is a need for long term policy and ambition to push businesses to achieve higher standards in carbon emission reductions. Green action from businesses included, the energy conglomerate Iberdrola stating that “companies are ready to invest and banks are ready to finance” which was further evidenced by the commitment of five large banks including SEA member BNP Paribas.
Not only organising the Year of Green Action in 2019, targeting young people particularly, the UK has formally announced that it aims to host the COP summit in 2020 where previous targets will be evaluated as well as setting new, stricter ones. This demonstrates the UK’s ambition to remain at the forefront of the climate change debate and if countries are to publish their heightened action plans by 2020, then 2019 is likely to see large scale changes in this area which we look forward to being a part of.
We hope that the new 2020 targets will go beyond those set in Paris, representing significant technological improvements and the increased urgency to tackle climate change. 2018 was a year of increased carbon emissions, extreme weather events, and calls from businesses and the public alike for increased action through long-term and stable policy. Hopefully 2019 will truly be a Year of Green Action, particularly in light of these events. The Sustainable Energy Association looks forward to working with industry, policy makers and parliamentarians over the year ahead to develop a concrete and ambitious policy framework, addressing climate change and making our buildings fit for future generations.
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 BBC News (2016). https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38170406
 David Attenborough (2018). https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/The%20People%27s%20Address%202.11.18_FINAL.pdf
 Wellcome (2017). https://wellcome.ac.uk/what-we-do/our-work/young-peoples-views-science-education
 You Gov (2018). https://wellcome.ac.uk/what-we-do/our-work/young-peoples-views-science-education
 BBC – Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46496967
 Claire Perry in Climate Change News (2018). http://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/12/04/britain-backs-strong-rules-bring-paris-agreement-life/
 BBC – Katowice: COP24 Climate change deal to bring pact to life. (2018). https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46582025