Young people, climate change and co-design - collaborating for the planet

Every day, we are constantly exposed to content, news stories and new information on the state of our planet. We are in a climate emergency and slowly, as the impacts of climate change become more apparent and reach closer to home, folks are starting to pay attention. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those who we see speaking up are young people. Young people are meeting in their thousands to protest, strike and challenge those in power to make the right decisions. Young people are developing new and innovative solutions to issues like food waste and single use plastics. Young people are paving the way. 

What has also become apparent is that those who have the power to make real, impactful change on the climate are decision makers. The eyes of the world fell on Glasgow and Scotland as leaders, negotiators and activists the world over prepared to attend COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.  

One thing that was crucial about COP26 was that the voices of those most impacted by climate change would be heard, listened to and acted on. The Scottish Government embraced this call to action, bringing together Young Scot, YouthLink Scotland and Keep Scotland Beautiful to deliver the COP26 Scottish Youth Climate Programme. An essential component of this programme of work is our Climate Co-Design Group. The Climate Co-Design Group is a group of 50 young people from across Scotland who work as the national leadership group for this project.

Meet some of our panel members here: https://young.scot/get-informed/national/introducing-the-climate-co-design-group 

The Climate Co-Design Group has been working across the programme to design and develop opportunities for young people to improve their knowledge of climate change, to take local and national action and to develop their own climate projects. The young people have been using their experience and knowledge to deliver events, such as the Scottish Youth Climate Summit, that brought over 70 young people from across Scotland together to create a Declaration of statements and demands for decision makers and experts to consider and take action on. The co-design group have also designed training sessions for young people to become Carbon Literate, supported the development of the COP26 Local Champions network and created initial plans for what the Legacy of COP26 will be in Scotland.  

Co-design is all about making sure that power is shared between citizens and decision makers, and allows for the creation of services and policies that reflect those they are there to serve. Young people want to see climate change policies and initiatives that are bold, inclusive and responsive. Without their voices being included in these discussions, there is a risk that our response to the climate emergency will fall short of this expectation. There is a risk that young people will feel disenfranchised from decision makers. There is the even greater risk that we do not do enough until it is too late and the damage done to our planet is irreparable.  

2022 gives us an opportunity to reflect on COP26 and the outcomes of the conference. Young people will be questioning whether it went far enough and will be looking to decision makers for their next steps. Without spaces for their voices to be at the forefront of these discussions, we will not succeed in achieving climate justice. Young people will be the greatest impacted by this crisis and I hope that the new year will bring many more opportunities for them to be involved in creating solutions, by turning words and promises into action.  

Keep up to date with the COP26 Scottish Youth Climate Programme here: https://youngscot.net/cop26-codesign-group 

Written by Emmie Main, COP26 Co-Design Officer at Young Scot.

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