Youth Have Their Say in Shaping Scotland’s Future

Photo Credit: Min An

The issue of climate change is fraught with disagreements – including disputes over its very existence. And for those who agree it is a dilemma, there are extensive divisions over the best approach to take. 

Groups such as Extinction Rebellion regularly receive criticism within the media over their perceived militant attempts to tackle the issue. As our environment is increasingly placed under stress, however, most agree that the future is anything but positive.

Recent national actions indicate there may be hope yet. The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held this year in Glasgow, and a new youth climate programme ‘The Climate Co-design project’, aim to ‘put the voices of young people in Scotland at the heart of the climate conversation during COP26’, according to gov.uk.

COP26 is a key summit held by the UN and is attended by heads of state and ministers from across the globe. The selection of the UK as host for this year’s summit is one of considerable responsibility, considering that it will address the fallout from the 2020 summit’s postponement. Major targets intended to be met and discussed last year will form an important focus. Logistically it is an exciting opportunity for young Scots to be involved in environmental causes and is accessibly located in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November 2021.

Applications to volunteer in various capacities with COP26 closed in Spring, but the Climate Co-design project will provide opportunities for involvement with the summit (and after it ends). Prior to the conference in October the programme will also host a COP26 Scottish Youth Summit.

The new youth climate programme funded by the Scottish government has been introduced as a platform for those seeking positive change. Successful applicants will work with councils and local communities for solutions whilst having the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions.

One local student, Alec, reflects upon this bringing positive change, noting how the potential for young people to be involved will facilitate climate change discourse that is more relatable for the next generation. 

There’s certainly an anthropological angle to the role young people may have the opportunity to play, in acting as translators and mediators between peers, local councillors and summit representatives. Considering the context of media debates and the rise of ‘fake news’ with those who deny climate change’s existence, there is considerable value in utilising young people to spread awareness whilst drawing from real-life local examples.

However, Alec also commented upon the value of initiatives that are based locally such as the John Muir Trust and its Junior Ranger Programme. 

The Junior Ranger programme brings young people together where they work to tackle environmental issues within their local communities – such as the over-dominance of non-native species – yet also beyond, working with national organisations such as Sustrans. There is the added advantage of volunteers mostly working within their school environment, thereby increasing awareness and enthusiasm amongst fellow classmates. It is invaluable to introduce local initiatives amongst younger ages as larger-scale initiatives may lack community spirit and knowledge, vital for tackling environmental issues effectively as well as garnering local support.

Support is certainly merited for smaller-scale organisations aimed in tackling environmental issues, yet large-scale initiatives such as COP26 and the Climate Co-design lend the needed traction essential for raising awareness. Moreover, it forms an exciting opportunity for young Scots to be part of something at a dynamic national level and infuse the prospects of climate change discussions and actions with greater positivity.

Those aged between 16-25 may apply for the Climate Co-design programme at: https://young.scot/get-involved/national/yshive-young-scot-climate-co-design-group

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