With 365 days until the UK’s general election, politicians must show they’re serious about tackling climate change
Why would a group of young people choose to stand outside Parliament with giant clocks in the pouring rain this morning? Because time is ticking, and we need politics that can fight for our future.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats our generation faces. The latest climate science reports showed once again that we don’t have time to waste switching to clean energy systems and getting fossil fuels out of our economies – and our politics. If today’s decision makers fail to take ambitious action in time, young people will be left with a world of unprecedented and unpredictable disruption and conflict.
Our elected representatives have a responsibility to listen to young people as a powerful section of the electorate – and not just big business with vested interests in preserving the high-carbon status quo. And if they want to secure our vote in 2015 just listening politely won’t cut it. We need to see actions over the next year to demonstrate that securing our future is their priority.
We know that voting isn’t the only way to make change, and we’re not leaving it up to politicians to get us on track for a sustainable, safe future. For one thing, we have far too much fun setting up renewable energy projects in our own communities, and representing ourselves at UN climate talks. But to tackle climate change we need action on all levels – and next year’s election is a key opportunity to make politics work better to secure a greener and fairer future for us.
That’s why today, with exactly a year to go until the 2015 General Election, we at the UK Youth Climate Coalition are launching our Fight for Our Future campaign. We are demanding that young people and climate change are top of the agenda in the 2015 General Election, and that real concrete action is taken by our elected representatives to create a safe future for us all.
This election comes in the wake of a financial crisis and parliamentary term that has caused the worst youth unemployment rate in a generation. Young people look at the pantomime of politics and finance and see a crisis which they did not cause but have borne the brunt of. The climate crisis poses the same threat to our generation – except there’s no possibility of a bailout once we’ve reached planetary tipping points.
We’re willing and able to vote but political parties have to give us something to vote for. Successive UK governments have ignored young people and have failed to live up to the scale of the climate problem. We won’t give our vote to politicians who rush to pull on their wellies when there’s a flood but who pursue more fossil fuel exploitation with a fracking policy. We won’t be complicit in a system that will make it too late for us, vulnerable communities and future generations to steer ourselves away from what today’s leaders have labelled ‘dangerous and unmanageable’ climate change.
MPs have their work cut out to convince young people that it is worth going out to vote. And they are only going to achieve that if they give us something different to vote for. It’s up to them to convince us that the act of voting will bring about real changes to our lives.
We need a new politics that does not ignore young people’s voices, needs and aspirations, with young people included in the decisions that will affect the planet we will grow up in. A political system that talks and listens with people beyond the election campaign. A political system which puts aside party-political barriers to tackle climate issues, and stops using young people’s futures for political point-scoring.
The countdown has started. We’re ready to mobilise a strong youth voice on climate action. We need to make our voices heard and ensure our demands are acted on. Are UK politicians ready to meet the challenge and re-enfranchise a generation?
Louisa Casson is European Campaigner at UK Youth Climate Coalition.