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#ExecutiveTakeover 2023: Climate Crisis

Graphic with orange background. Image of climate protester. Text on blue background to the right reads: 'Executive Takeover. Climate Crisis.' White globe at bottom and briefcase and paper folder at the top.
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At the Annual Children and Young People’s Executive Takeover 2023, Tamsin Gold MSYP and Alasdair Marshall MSYP gave a speech to the Permanent Secretary, Directors-General and other civil servants on the Climate Crisis.

You can read our speech below:

We’re here to talk about the Climate Emergency and the challenges it brings. Young people in Scotland have had a lot to say about this and we are here to pass on their thoughts and opinions to you and we are grateful you are here and willing to listen. Young people have been repeating these points for many years, but we really want to emphasise the injustice currently happening.

If we were to give you a report card, it would look like this. Climate targets are being missed. This is an injustice. In June this year, it was reported by the BBC that Scotland’s target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions was missed. As of October 2021, the Scottish Government missed its targets on reducing climate emissions in five of the seven sectors set out in its 2018 plan to tackle climate change. The target for 2021 was to cut emissions by 51.1% against 1990 levels, but in 2021 the total emissions were only 49.9% lower.

We, as young people, recognise that this is a relatively small percentage to miss the target by. However, we know missing annual targets makes achieving future ones more difficult, so this is a slippery slope to larger target misses, and it puts a higher burden on us young people and the future generations to solve the problems we did not create. These missed targets make us feel like our future is being stolen before our eyes.

Young people also believe Scotland has a duty to achieve these reduction targets for the countries who are being impacted the most yet have contributed the least to the climate crisis. In SYP’s 2021-2026 Manifesto 75% of 10,000 young people said the global climate emergency is an issue of climate justice and countries most responsible for emissions must be the first to reduce.

Between 2019 and 2020 emissions fell by 12% – half of 1990 levels for the first time. But the fall in 2020 was due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and didn’t stick after restrictions were lifted. We know that change is possible; we saw it in the COVID-19 crisis. Rules were set and measures were put in place to save lives and in the future Climate Change will cause many more deaths. It also threatens animals and even the extinction of some species. People are willing to make changes to help others and now we need you to lead on the changes needed to help our planet and ourselves.

In SYPs Manifesto from 2016-21, 80% of the 10,000 Young People we consulted agreed that action should be taken to:

  • drastically tackle climate change,
  • protect the environment,
  • and promote green initiatives, such as investing in clean and renewable energy, reducing emissions, encouraging recycling, reducing waste, and investing in public and active transport.

An instrumental way the Scottish Government could increase ambitions and meet the asks of these 8,000 young people is through its Climate Change Plans. However, we recently heard that this too is, unfortunately, being delayed, for reasons outside of the Scottish Government’s control. Rather than allowing this to just be a late submission and another negative mark on your report card, you must take control of what you can, listen to young people, and increase its ambition in this next year. 

In the Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from Children and Young People in Scotland, an MSYP said that People often talk about how ‘young people are the future!’, but neglect to acknowledge that we are right here in this moment, watching our planet being picked apart – and we do not want any role in this future that is being built on our behalf.

Hands up who is worried about the climate crisis? Young people are anxious too. Inaction around solving climate change is making young people anxious and affecting their mental health. Young people have said that they feel helpless, out of control and that there is nothing they can do. A survey by Bath University from 10 countries, 10,000 respondents of Young People aged 16-25 found that nearly 60% of young people who were approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change.

Young people need to see a bold commitment to tackling climate change by their government and to feel that they are part of the solution. The updated Climate Change plan is key to delivering this, and we ask that during this period whilst the update is delayed, you take the opportunity to make sure our rights and views are at the heart of it.

Young people are empowered through participation and always push for climate justice. In August this year, SYP formed a response to the Circular Economy Bill and in that we made a key ask that we want to emphasise to you now. In the just transition, it must be businesses and polluters that pay for the transition, and the burden should, under no circumstances, be placed on consumers or future generations as is often the case currently. As the burden is often placed on us, we must be in the room whilst decisions are being made to call out injustice.

A just transition also empowers young people. Fraser Adams MSYP asked for young people to be involved in an implementation group for the Circular Economy Bill at Cabinet Takeover earlier this year. However, this has not yet happened. We urge you, again, to take this into consideration and form groups that allow young people to participate and feed directly into the delivery of climate solutions. Young people are passionate about the climate emergency – that much is evident – but you could engage so many more young people by giving them clear, easily accessible spaces to feed in their views directly.

Young people are the future, but they also play an important part in the now. Our speech would mean nothing if you do not listen to our asks and take action. We need you as decision makers to listen to young people’s calls to take more urgent action on the climate emergency through a more ambitious Climate Change Plan which includes young people’s views and justice at its heart. Young people appreciated and valued the inclusion of them in COP26, but we want to ensure that we are listened to at every stage of this journey. Young people should be included in all stages of policy development and implementation through youth orientated spaces. We have unique experiences, viewpoints and opinions which are valuable.

It’s our future, we will have to suffer the consequences of delayed climate action for the rest of our lives. We’re already seeing the devastation of climate change in Scotland and around the world, but certainly the worst is still to come.

Are you grieving for the planet yet? Young people are and unless things change, you should be too.

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