Source: Small Island Developing States
8 July 2019: An analysis from the Nordic Council of Ministers explores the views of youth aged 13-30 related to sustainable consumption and living, as well as climate change. The authors find that in Nordic countries, youth are “leading the way as sustainable changemakers” with ambitious, radical and urgent demands to politicians and decision-makers for action to combat climate change.
The report titled, ‘Nordic Youth as Sustainable Changemakers: In the transition to sustainable consumption and production,’ considers specific themes related to sustainable consumption, with a focus on food, electronics, waste, plastic, fashion, travel and transportation. The analysis aims to inspire politicians and decision-makers, businesses and citizens to take action for sustainable societies, at both individual and systemic levels. The text recalls that since Greta Thunberg initiated climate school strikes in August 2018, the movement has spread from Sweden and the Nordic countries to the rest of the world. Climate protests have taken place in more than 1,600 cities, in 125 countries, and more than 1.6 million people have been involved, making it the biggest global movement on climate action in history.
The publication is based on quantitative and qualitative research and data collected from April-May 2019. A total of 1,211 survey responses were collected from young people in the Nordic countries, with data gathered through a digital survey of youth organizations. Researchers held 17 in-depth qualitative interviews with young changemakers, most of which were conducted over Skype using a semi-structured interview guide. Some of these interviews, the report explains, were conducted in the respective home countries of the informants in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. To write the report, qualitative insights were also gathered through participation in and observations during a series of conferences and youth events in Denmark and Iceland.
As for youth’s concerns and worries, the publication shows that 89% of young people in the Nordic region are very or extremely concerned about climate change, as well as ocean plastic pollution, natural disasters arising from global warming, and loss of biodiversity. The specific percentages of young people in the survey who are worried or extremely worried about different issues are:
- Plastics in the ocean: 91%
- Global warming (sea-level rise, floods, melting ice and droughts): 89%
- Loss of biodiversity (extinction of species): 87%
- Overconsumption of natural resources: 86%
- Increased waste production (e.g. electronics and food waste): 81%
- Air pollution: 78%
- Poor water quality: 78%
- Chemicals and pesticides: 66%
- Environmental accidents (e.g. oil spills): 63%
More than 93% think that a sustainable lifestyle is important, and 83% are ready to take even more action than they do.
In a section on approaches and actions, the report analyzes how Nordic youth and young sustainable changemakers are already taking action in terms of sorting waste, avoiding food waste, eating vegetarian food, buying second-hand products and choosing green mobility. The section on inspiration and motivation finds that youth are inspired by other young people, but also are calling for more adult role models, with political leaders considered among the least inspiring figures. Key motivations highlighted by changemakers include making a difference and an improved quality of life. Thus, campaigns communicating positive aspects rather than “sacrifices” could help inspire more people to adopt sustainable lifestyles.
On barriers to change, the authors report that 47% of respondents feel that taking action is difficult, with the main barriers being a lack of sustainable products, lack of certifications, and lack of political reforms and regulation. Money and lack of information were not considered the main obstacles to taking action. The conclusion is that information and price incentives are less important than greater convenience and availability for conscious young consumers.
The section on responsibility and change reports that youth feel that politicians are the most responsible for action, and are calling for more ambitious and radical changes to make consumption and production sustainable. Interviews showed that youth are very concerned about a complete lack of action from politicians, who do no more than talk about climate change: they see things getting worse, but still take no action. The survey respondents expressed frustration that it is only young people taking action.
In a final section on recommendations, the report offers young people’s advice to other youth on how to become sustainable changemakers, as well as demands for politicians and decision-makers to speed up the transition to sustainable consumption and production. The report underscores that the call for action should be seen as “a democratic manifestation” of young people’s concerns, hopes and demands for action before it is too late.
The initiative by the Nordic Council of Ministers was undertaken to involve young people and let them inspire others to take the necessary action towards achieving SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and broader the 2030 Agenda, and to help protect future generations of humans, animals, plants and ecosystems. [Publication: Nordic Youth as Sustainable Changemakers: In the transition to sustainable consumption and production] [Nordic Council of Ministers press release]