The text below was first given as a Welcome Address at Edinburgh Sustainable Innovation Conference in March 2018, on behalf of 2050 Climate Group. It was then published on 2050 CLimate Group’s blog here: http://2050.scot/blog/2018/04/06/siri-pantzars-welcome-address-esic2018-now-go-change-world-folks/
My name is Siri Pantzar and I am the Chair of the Policy Subgroup of the 2050 Climate Group. 2050 is an organisation that aims to engage, educate and empower young people to take the lead in solving climate change, mainly through our flagship programme which is called the Young Leaders Development Programme. More on that a little bit later though.
First I want to thank Buchanan Institute for this opportunity. I have always been very impressed with the work that Buchanan Institute does in bringing voices of students and young people to new forums and situations. I think, in this Year of Young People, we should all be focusing on how to best involve young people in solving the big challenges of our times. And obviously one of the biggest challenges our world faces today, one of the defining issues for our generation, is climate change, and the transition to a more sustainable society. It is crucial that we young people are included in that. I see two reasons why this is particularly important.
Firstly, because this is the world we have grown up in. The key international agreement for addressing climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, was adopted the year after I was born, in 1992. Climate change wasn’t on my parent’s radar when they were growing up, because the science wasn’t there yet. Our generation has always known that climate change is something we need to address. It is our default setting, which makes us able to see things slightly differently from the previous generations.
Secondly, because we are ultimately the people who will have to deal with the consequences, regardless of what we do. Some projections say that by the time I am 40, the climate will have warmed by 2 degrees celsius. There is no business as usual for us – the world will change regardless of what we do. All we can do is decide what that change looks like.
As I see it, there are two options available for us. We can pretend that we can continue living our lives as they are. This will lead to changes that we have no control over. We all know these: warming, storms, shortages of food, flooding, parts of the world becoming uninhabitable due to drought, or due to being underwater. Or we can take control of the changes: create a more sustainable, clean, low-carbon world, with active transport, different ownership patterns, adaptation solutions, and clean energy which is used efficiently. Neither scenario is easy, because change is not easy; but change is inevitable. All we can do is choose to do the hard work now, or deal with unplanned changes later.
At the Edinburgh Sustainable Innovation Conference we have both older and younger generations gathered together around these issues. I would first like to address the young people, to whom my main message is: go out there. Take chances – those offered to you and those you have to go and seek out. Make mistakes. Suggest things. Question things. Try things. Many things, especially in this country, were designed for a radically different time. We can change them to better suit the time we live in. We need to re-think the ways we live, we work, we travel, we have stuff. So do that. Some of the things you try out will not work, but you’ll know better for next time. Many things will work out much better than you dared imagine. The Year of Young People gives us all a unique platform, a mandate, to do this; and I urge you all to take advantage of that.
In many ways the 2050 Climate Group, my organisation, is a prime example of just how much you can get done if you do that, if you stop worrying about mistakes and lack of experience, and just start doing stuff. The organisation was created as a chain of successful experiments: the Youth Climate Summit, then Young Leaders Development Programme, then Young Leaders Development Programme 2. In a few years it has grown from 25 to 60 volunteers and now employs staff, and we have trained over 250 people with leadership skills and climate change awareness.
And this sense of “just go for it” runs through the organisation. This is the third time I ever talk to an audience outside university assignments. The first time was at a United Nations climate conference. Later on, some of the Young Leaders that have recently finished with the programme are hosting a workshop, sharing their learned knowledge and skills. Speaking of that, I asked them what they would like me to say to you all. They said one of the key lessons for them had been that the only way forward is to start doing something. Climate change and the sustainability transition that we need are big challenges and can feel paralysing, but small steps lead to new ways of thinking, which leads to more and bigger steps. So carry a keepcup. Call your MP. Talk to your friends and family. Just do something, and other things will come along.
Finally, I’d like to address those people that don’t feel like they fit in the young people category, because there is an important role for you too. We can go out to find opportunities to be included, but there are spaces into which we need to be invited; so invite us. And not just as token representation, because that’s a waste, both for us and for you. Young people have skills and perspective that you don’t, just like you have skills and perspective that we don’t; we should all take advantage of that. We are natives of systems – coding, internet, social media – that older generations will never grasp the same way; like learning languages, the most creative use comes from childhood learners. We also have different perspective – young people have yet to get used to “how things are done” and thus can show where the discord happens between old systems and new challenges. But in order for us to share that perspective with you, you need to encourage us. Allow young people into all decision-making spaces, amplify their voices, have reverse mentors, and you’ll find new solutions to new problems, as opposed to old solutions to new problems.
If this rings a bell and you want to include young people but you’re not quite sure how, we at 2050 might be able to help you with that. We’ve been running our programmes for several years now, which have resulted in some incredible, active, strong young voices in the field. So get in touch with us, and we can talk about how we can work together. Similarly, if you’re a young person and want to lead in this change but aren’t quite sure how, we have some fantastic stuff coming up right now – our next Summit is on 28th April 2018, we are currently recruiting for new volunteers, and recruitment for the next Young Leaders Development Programme will start soon too – go on our website, sign up to our newsletter and follow us on social media, and you’ll find out about everything that’s going on.
That’s it from me for now. Now go change the world, folks. Thank you.