Youth Demand Just Net Zero Transition
Young individuals have expressed concerns that the path to achieving Net Zero emissions could exacerbate societal disparities, as revealed by recent research conducted by the Co-op and its affiliated charity, the Co-op Foundation.
This study delved into the perspectives of 16–24-year-olds regarding the journey towards Net Zero, considering both the potential risks and opportunities for this demographic.
A Climate Disparity Emerges
An overwhelming majority (73%) of respondents voiced apprehensions that the transition to Net Zero would disproportionately impact certain segments of the population:
A quarter (25%) believed that individuals with lower incomes or from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds would bear the brunt of the changes required to adopt sustainable behaviours, more so than those with higher incomes.
One in ten (12%) expressed concerns about the affordability of sustainability, with a quarter (25%) highlighting the rising cost of living as their primary worry.
In response to these concerns, those surveyed called for increased government intervention to ensure an equitable and affordable transition. Specifically:
27% advocated for subsidies aimed at assisting lower-income families in navigating the transition to Net Zero.
30% desired governmental support for climate-related initiatives.
Empowering the Youth
The study also revealed that while three-quarters (76%) of participants are concerned about the UK reaching its Net Zero target, there is a strong desire among young people to actively contribute. An impressive 91% believe that young individuals should have a say in decisions about reducing the UK's emissions, and 75% express personal interest in participating in these efforts.
However, there is a prevailing belief among four in five (79%) that the UK government does not listen to voices like theirs when making decisions related to Net Zero. Additionally, there appears to be a lack of confidence in their understanding of climate change, which calls for more comprehensive education, with almost half (47%) citing a lack of education on the topic. Nearly a third (30%) advocate for more opportunities to learn about potential jobs and careers related to Net Zero to help the UK meet its climate targets.
Opportunity for Collaboration
Despite these apprehensions, the vast majority (72%) view the transition to Net Zero as an opportunity for their generation, even though more than half (51%) are uncertain about how to actively participate.
Recognising the strong desire among young people to be part of this transition and effect positive change, the Co-op is taking steps to provide dedicated avenues for young individuals to engage.
In 2022, the Co-op Foundation collaborated closely with 100 young people to develop its new Future Communities Vision and strategy, which includes a commitment to fostering sustainable communities. Young individuals continue to play a role in shaping its future direction and allocation of funds.
The Co-op Foundation, through its strategy, has also pledged to invest in young people, leaders, innovators, co-operators, and activists, including those with visionary ideas to create sustainable communities. The Foundation is presently developing the first round of funding for individuals to support young people in bringing their ideas to fruition.
By choosing to purchase compostable bags in-store, Co-op shoppers are making an eco-conscious choice that contributes significantly to reducing the environmental impact of carrier bags. Furthermore, this supports Co-op's partnership with the Co-op Foundation's Carbon Innovation Fund, which is providing £3.5 million in grants to assist partners in addressing carbon emissions within the food and farming sector.
Co-op Members also have the opportunity to support environmental initiatives in their local communities, with over £3.6 million raised and 1,400 local community projects focused on restoring, conserving, and safeguarding the environment, all supported by members.
Co-op has extended its support to Co-op Academies working toward achieving their Eco Schools Award, with some academies having already earned their Green Flag awards. Co-op has also hosted two Eco Conferences, bringing together Co-op Academies and partners, including the RHS Bridgewater, Keep Britain Tidy, and Fair and Funky, to facilitate the sharing of best practices, ideas, and inspiration among pupils and students across the Trust, encouraging their involvement in sustainability and climate change activities.\
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