Young people must be at the heart of Scotland’s political decision making on climate change
Written by Rhona Smith, Policy Volunteer, 2050 Climate Group.
The Climate Crisis will undoubtedly have a long lasting impact on generations to come and difficult decisions must be made today to reduce the adverse effects of climate change in the future. This means that the young people of today are not only victims of climate change but also valuable agents of change who can engage and take action through political decision making processes to pave the way for their own future.
When young people are disengaged from the political process, a huge proportion of the population loses influence on decisions that impact their lives every single day. Political systems cannot be representative, if not all parts of society are included. Young people must have a loud voice and a seat at the table!
Young people aged between 16 and 30 make up over 18% of Scotland’s population. With the council elections taking place this week, we’re reminded how using your vote is so important and that voting is one of the most valuable ways to engage in politics.
Scottish Local Councils have a number of responsibilities and powers which can help to tackle the Climate Crisis, and it’s important to know your local candidates’ priorities. Councils have a lot more power and responsibility than you might think and they particularly impact a lot of issues that respond to the climate crisis. Councillors make decisions that impact our day to day lives. Yet, 1 in 5 UK councils have no climate action plan and a third have not committed to reaching net zero by a specific date.
An example of how engaging in local politics can make big leaps for tackling the Climate Crisis is the influence council’s have over transportation. Transport accounts for 36% of Scotland’s total emissions, and very little progress has been made to reduce this figure in the last 30 years. Reducing our transport emissions is one of the biggest challenges facing Scotland. Local Councils, though, can play a big part in reducing our transport emissions.
You may remember during the early stages of the pandemic Councils across Scotland installed ‘Spaces for People’ projects which gave more space for people to walk and cycle. Long term versions of these projects could help encourage people out of their cars and towards active travel. Having efficient and cost effective public transport is another way to encourage people to live more sustainably and reduce emissions, and from July of this year, Councils in Scotland will have the power to run their own bus services.
Last month, 2050 Climate Group conducted a survey to determine young people’s priorities for the Local Council Elections. Of 85 respondents, 79% did not feel that their local council engages young people on climate change! If you want to read more about the results of the survey, read 2050 Climate Group’s blog: What are Young People's priorities for the 2022 Scottish Local Council Elections? — 2050 Climate Group
With so many competing priorities and challenges facing us collectively and individually, this survey and this election are a timely reminder of the need to continually bear in mind the climate crisis and move towards a just and better Scotland - and world!