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Young people: our answer to a more sustainable future?

As unprecedented heatwaves and climate disruption spread around the world, it’s clear that current plans to tackle the climate crisis are failing. Now more than ever we need to listen to and amplify the generation of young people leading the fight against the climate emergency.

Record temperatures were recorded in the UK this summer sparking wildfires, depleting water levels and devastating crops. One-third of Pakistan has been completely submerged by historic flooding with the heaviest rain recorded in a decade. As extreme weather conditions continue to spread across Europe, North America and parts of Asia and Africa climate scientists are clear – global warming is the leading cause . With these events set to become our future norm, it’s clear that current approaches to tackling the climate crisis just aren’t up to task.

Rather than looking for solutions in the same places and in the same broken promises, we should look to the people who are already leading us in the fight against the climate crisis: young people . When it comes down to it, it’s their planet that is being destroyed, they should have the chance to impact the decisions set to affect their future.

That’s why, as part of our latest campaign Be Seen Be Heard, The Body Shop are campaigning in over 80 countries around the world to make sure young people have their voices heard in the halls of power.

Find out how to get involved in our Be Seen Be Heard campaign and follow #BeSeenBeHeard across our social channels to stay up to date.

Christopher Davis

By Christopher Davis, International Director of Activism and Sustainability

Find out how to get involved in our Be Seen Be Heard campaign and follow #BeSeenBeHeard across our social channels to stay up to date.

Fear and facing responsibility

A 2021 study of 10,000 children and young people in 25 countries discovered that 60% were very worried about climate change . Similarly, research from The Body Shop’s Global Youth Survey found that more than 50% of young people think it will get worse in the next 20 years . Which isn’t surprising when you consider that we’re not going to meet the climate pledges set out in the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a ‘code red’ for humanity , which means climate changes are now irreversible.Climate inaction from governments will disproportionately impact young people. Particularly those living in the Global South . And it’s not enough for current political and business leaders to take responsibility for the climate emergency – they need to actively listen to and engage with young people to find better solutions for people and the environment. In fact, the United Nation’s Our Common Agenda report lists the need to protect the planet and work with youth as two key proposals for creating a better global future .

Fighting for a fairer tomorrow

The Body Shop’s Global Youth Survey also found that climate change is the number 1 issue that young people care about.

In Europe, six young people from Portugal are taking 33 countries to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for failing to do enough to avert a climate emergency . Another group of five young activists are taking 12 EU countries to the ECHR, claiming membership of the energy charter treaty (which protects fossil fuel companies) is obstructing positive action to prevent climate change .

Young climate campaigners are also gaining more recognition for their work outside traditional ‘green’ or ‘youth’ circles. In the UK, Daze Aghaji ran as an independent candidate for Extinction Rebellion in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections. She didn’t win but her campaign pushed her fight for climate justice into the mainstream, leading to a TEDx Talk on solutions to climate change .

In France, Nigerian-born Fatima Atty Djibrine fights for climate justice, advocating for the Global South . She has already spoken at the Paris Peace Forum, Athens Democracy Forum and Global Progress Summit on how to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries in order to combat the climate crisis.

All around the world young people are taking their future into their own hands and are campaigning tirelessly to combat the climate crisis. I believe that if we allowed younger generations to channel this drive, hope and determination into our decision-making spaces, we would likely see greater progress in this area.

Hope for the future

As the UN’s Our Common Agenda states “it is time to find ways to give more weight to [young people’s] collective interests and to make our systems work to safeguard their futures.” And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to achieve through Be Seen Be Heard. We must involve young people in the conversations and processes at a higher level so that they can challenge our current systems to create a society fit for the future.

Whenever I hear young climate activists talking, their energy and positivity is so inspiring and so different to ‘the suits’. If we harness this creativity and ambition, I think a more sustainable world will be possible. And that gives me real hope for the planet and for our future.

• To find out more, visit beseenbeheardcampaign.com or follow #BeSeenBeHeard