By Sian Ryan
Environmental charity Global Action Plan recently conducted significant research into the green visions of 1,052 young people aged 16-24, revealing that young people are refreshingly optimistic about achieving a sustainable future. The question is whether the key decision makers of today are making the commitments required to make young people’s cleaner, brighter vision, a reality.
The government recently announced that they plan to commit Britain to a ‘legally binding’ target to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in 2050 and by 50% in 2025. To achieve this target we will need to see and increase in the production of electric cars and vans by 60% in the year 2030 and renewable energy should account for at least 15% of the total energy consumptions by the year 2020. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is by no means a battle won.
The announcement comes after an open letter was sent to David Cameron from 15 green organisations urging the government to make the right choice and commit to significant carbon reduction targets. It seems that this prompting may have been an important factor leading the government to take stronger action on climate change. So, on the one hand it is greatly reassuring to know that the government is willing to listen to the advice of these organisations, but on the other begs the questions, why does a government which has declared itself as aspiring towards the title of “greenest government ever” need to be prompted to take action on climate change?
One of the biggest issues surrounding this announcement is that although the government is happy to tell us exactly where they want emissions to be by 2050, they have provided very little indication of how they intend to get to this point. The reductions are high and without robust plans, casts doubt on whether they are achievable as well as concern over exact tactics planned to implement the change. For example, Global Action Plan’s research explains that young people envision a future where UK energy suppliers use a diverse range of renewable energy. However, much of the speculation surrounding this announcement has stressed nuclear energy as the most likely option for Britain.
Nuclear power already accounts for 20% of the UK’s supplied electricity and it has been suggested that 3 more nuclear reactors may be built in the UK. Global action Plan’s research shows that young people are divided on this issue and as a result their position on the matter is neutral. However, if a strong shift towards this type of energy occurs we may find that the government is leading us down a path that many young people are uncomfortable with. Never the less we will have to face the consequences of the decisions made now.
On a positive note, the government plans have been seen by many as a significant step towards a growing green industry sector which was an ambition clearly laid out by young people in Global Action Plan’s research - many participants envisioned a future where the UK is a “leader in environmental technology, research and science and at the forefront of green innovation and solutions” and it seems that this is also the vision of many senior government ministers.
One of the most significant findings of Global Action Plan’s research is that young people are calling for stronger government leadership and the announcement implies we can have more faith in the government’s commitment to a greener future. However, I fear that that with vague plans of action, division in parliament and a government needs cattle prodding; there are no guarantees of this leadership after all. Further to this, there is talk of a get out clause if other EU countries do not match our targets… maybe they need reminding of the definition of leader, again.
So we are left with high hopes surrounded in great uncertainty but what is clear, is that it is still imperative we, as young people, need to sing from the rooftops to make our voices heard, drawing on the support of groups like Global Action Plan and credible visions like Greenprint 2020.
Energy Secretary to reveal UK long-term carbon targethttp://www.ifandp.com/article/0011226.html
Coalition commits Britain to legally binding emission cutshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/14/historic-climate-change-deal-agreed-chris-huhne
David Cameron in danger of breaking green pledge, warn green groupshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/14/david-cameron-breaking-green-pledge
Cameron intervenes to settle row over emissions targetshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13409404
Committee on Climate Change - The Renewable Energy Review 9 May 2011http://www.theccc.org.uk/reports/renewable-energy-review