Taking a stand on climate change – what actions will you take?
A blog post by Ross Brannigan
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This Friday, pupils and students across the world will again be participating in school climate action walk-outs inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg, calling on governments to act now on climate change.
I remember when the news came in of the Paris Agreement. I had been watching the negotiations like a hawk, reporting on it for my student newspaper and blogging about it. At the time, I was studying in the USA, and little did I expect that great power to pull out of one of the most important concords to have occurred for decades.
Even symbolically, the Paris Agreement showed countries across the globe were thinking seriously about climate change. Despite this, the agreement was just that: agreement.
Countries noted something needed to be done and that the situation was bad. In the UK, carbon emissions are on the way down, but there is still a long way to go.
It is completely understandable that young people want action now. In doing so, they are embracing Goal 13 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which asks for a commitment for countries to take action to combat climate change and its impacts. These Global Goals are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership, and we at Keep Scotland Beautiful are also signed up to them.
It is extremely encouraging to see so many people taking a stand on this huge issue, especially when the amount of climate change we have already “signed-up for” makes for some scary reading. A recent survey by Young Scot, found that nearly half (42%) of young people consider that they themselves have some responsibility to tackle climate change, but only a third are aware of the practical actions they could take.
So, what are some of the practical steps young people can take in order to make a difference?
In the school context, they can take part in our Eco-Schools Scotland programme, through which we help channel students’ passion for the environment. There are hundreds of inspiring examples where pupils have taken the lead on different topics including waste minimisation, energy and transport, all of which work to reduce their school community’s carbon emissions. We are very lucky in Scotland as every pupil has an entitlement to Learning for Sustainability through a Curriculum for Excellence so there are real opportunities to embrace this passion in the classroom.
Supporting secondary schools to take a more explicit, climate change focussed approach to their Eco-Schools Scotland work, our Climate Ready Classrooms workshops help young people to navigate the science of climate change and develop their skills as climate change advocates in their community.
I was recently representing Keep Scotland Beautiful at a high school careers and one of the main topics I was asked about was Young Reporters Scotland. In terms of getting your voice out there, YRS is a terrific method for young people to 1) talk about issues which matter to them; 2) be part of a world-wide group of young reporters; 3) have their voice projected through our channels, as well as those of our partners; and 4) develop skills and a portfolio to approach employers and universities with.
Connected with our work, many of the projects we support through the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund are engaging young people to make a difference in their communities in some incredibly innovative sustainability and environmental protection initiatives. For example, the Bike for Good, VeloCommunities Project in Glasgow is encouraging people out of their cars and onto their bikes. As part of this, young people from the After School Bike Club will be interviewing relevant experts about the environmental challenges facing society today. Over in Renfrewshire, Remode work with young people to upcycle unwanted textiles and are running a fashion show featuring upcycled clothes in the next few weeks. There are also great examples of projects being run by students at colleges and universities. These include the Go Green Low Carbon Travel Project at Edinburgh college to help students to travel to college more sustainably, and the AberGreen project at Aberdeen University to reduce energy consumption in University by collecting and distributing second hand items from University accommodation that would otherwise go to landfill.
Albeit these are voluntary opportunities, a lot of potential lies in honing your skills and active participation in projects linked to the environment and sustainability so that, in the future, you can acquire academic qualifications to take you into a career protecting our planet and become the decision-makers of the future.
Finally, take a look closer to home. What changes can you commit to in your everyday life to tackle climate change? Considering the waste that you produce through packaging and non-essential items, the carbon footprint the food you eat has on the environment, shortening the time you spend in the shower, or reusing or repairing clothes instead of buying new. These are things every one of us can implement – not just young people. And we can all start today.
Protecting the environment is a long-term process and it can be frustrating when things don’t seem to be progressing as quickly as we would like at government level.
But it's fantastic to see young people leading conversations about climate change and asking tough questions about their future. After all, our collective actions today affect their tomorrow.