By Lily Shymanska, Corporate Communications Officer at the British Science Association.


Earlier this week, the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) wrapped up in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh. The summit welcomed Heads of State, government ministers, academics and – for the first time – young people, to participate in the global negotiations.

The Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27 was located within the ‘Blue Zone’ of the conference – the inner, UN-managed space which hosts and coordinates the global negotiations. This is the first time children have had an official space at a UN climate change conference, enabling them to participate in discussions and policy briefings. Previously, children and young people’s groups were positioned in the ‘Green Zone’, outside of where the decision-making happens.

COP27 also held a dedicated ‘Youth and Future Generations Day’ on 10 November focusing on the pavilion organisers hailing from 14 youth-led organisations.

In this blog, we explore why the recognition of young people as stakeholders in developing climate policies is so important.

At the heart of the issue, and the solution

A takeaway from COP26 last year was the increased consensus that the people least responsible for the climate crisis, including children and young people, are often the ones suffering its worst consequences. Studies show that as the climate crisis intensifies, children are to face disproportional increases in lifetime extreme event exposure — especially those living in developing countries.

And despite young people having been at the centre of the fight against climate change in recent years, with movements such as Fridays for Future, and young activists like Greta Thunberg spearheading the climate movement, young people have been systematically underrepresented in climate change negotiations.

At COP25, only a quarter (25%) of negotiators were under 35 despite this age group making up more than half (56%) of the world’s population.

We asked young people about the climate crisis

The British Science Association (BSA) collaborated with UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK on a Future Forum project which surveyed 1,000 young people (14-to-19-year-olds) across the UK to understand their views on the role of STEM within their lives, and its potential impact on their futures.

It came as no surprise that climate change (53%) and the future of renewable energy (47%) were the top two issues young people believed nations around the world should be working collaboratively to solve.

And when asked what governments should prioritise investing in, innovative technologies that can help us create new forms of clean energy ranked the highest (52%), followed by technologies that can help us combat climate change (48%).

The survey also found that over half of young people (54%) regarded tackling climate change as ‘very important’ for supporting their wellbeing in the future (the second highest-ranking action to providing mental health services to all, 65%).

These findings further reinforce the message that young people are passionate about the environment, and think that governments aren’t doing enough.


A step towards what youth engagement can become

Christina Adane, Chair of Bite Back 2030 and BSA Honorary Fellow, says:

Young people's voices have been integral to the climate movement, so it's good to see that COP has finally recognised their importance in the conversation. However, the UN must ensure that young people are part of the real decision making going on behind the scenes, in boardrooms that decide the world's future. This is a great first step in the inclusion of young people in decision-making and positions of power.

The Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27 can be seen as a positive step towards creating intergenerational dialogues and breaking down silos between policymakers.

Ensuring that young people are comprehensively educated about the climate crisis and building their capacity to participate meaningfully will further solidify their presence as a cornerstone in future UN climate conferences.

To inspire children to investigate topics around climate change, our CREST Awards education programme includes Star and SuperStar activities to encourage 5-to-11-year-olds to connect with nature through science learning. For secondary students Bronze, Silver and Gold resource packs on topics from monitoring water pollution to eco-friendly city planning can show young people the vital real-world applications of climate science.


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*If you are interested in partnering with us for a Future Forums project, please contact [email protected]