Young climate activists call for transparency at Zurich online conference

By Jessica Durston - 19 October 2021

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  • The panelists at the Youth Against Carbon Conference

    The panelists at the Youth Against Carbon Conference

Their calls were made at Youth Against Carbon Conference (YAC Con) held on Zurich’s Youtube and Instagram channels.

With COP26 less than two weeks away, five individuals considered to be some of the UK’s most prominent young climate activists made a call for the Government to “tell the truth” and put more urgency into meeting targets.

Their recommendations were voiced during Zurich UK’s second Youth Against Carbon Conference (YAC Con), which was streamed on Monday 18 October.

The youth-led event was hosted by 22-year-old climate justice activist and student Dominique Palmer, who was joined by 17-year-old climate activist and student Elijah McKenzie-Jackson from East London, 19 year old Leeds University student and sustainable fashion advocate, Gaia Rattazzi, 21-year-old  sustainability and anti-racism activist Angel Arutura and 18-year-old Amy Meek, who founded award winning campaigning charity Kids Against Plastic (KAP).

YAC Con was set up by Zurich UK with aims of providing young people with an opportunity to have their voices heard on the climate crisis, with the discussion seeing the panel collaborating to brainstorm solutions and debate ethical consumption.

The panel shared a message for the UK government to take to COP26 and beyond. The message can be broken down into 8 steps:

1.     Listening is not enough – It is crucial youth voices are not only heard by government but acted on. Dominique Palmer said: “We are the generation that has the most at stake, and who will be inheriting the world left for us. We have incredible power, together, to make lasting change.”

2.     Honesty and transparency – We need the government to be honest about their progress on climate change goals, we need to be able to trust them to tell us the truth. Amy Meek said: “With much of COP happening behind closed doors, it can seem as though progress is happening really slowly, or not happening at all.”

3.     Make information more accessible – Information about the climate crisis needs to be made more accessible and less complicated. Angel Arutura said: “Language is so important when we talk about the climate crisis. Our leaders like to over-complicate it and make it sound like this really difficult thing that we don’t understand.”

4.     Better communication – We need to hear more from the government on the milestones and goals being set at COP26. Amy Meek said: “We need to be able to hold government and corporations to account and push for change sooner if it is not happening. The more we know, the more we can also play our part in helping achieve the goals being set.”

5.     Drive ethical consumption – Governments and corporations need to do more to help people become more ethical consumers and drive greater understanding of the connection between what they buy and where it ends up. We need more legislation to hold companies accountable for what they produce, how it is destroyed and where it ends up.  Elijah McKenzie- Jackson said: “It is also important to recognise that being an ethical consumer comes with so much privilege. You have to have a decent income. We need to make sure the government can enable everyone to live sustainability no matter their economic status or abilities.”

6.     Put people and planet before profit – To reduce overconsumption, corporations must change the way they market products and stop bombarding consumers with adverts for products they don’t really need. Gaia Rattazzi said: “Companies have too big marketing budgets and they are spending it on trying to convince us to buy products we don’t actually need. Products are not made to last so we need to replace them constantly and buy more. It’s all about making profit.”

Elijah added: “We need the Government to ask corporations to do things differently and make it impossible for them to act in this way.”

7.     Embrace slow fashion – More emphasis is needed on slowing down and prolonging the lifecycle of clothes. We need an end to the fast fashion model.  Businesses need to be more transparent about their products and create items that are made to last. 

Angel Arutura commented: “As long as you have a business model that just pumps out clothes all the time, it’s not ethical or sustainable. The focus needs to be on slowing down. We can’t restructure the current system, but rather get rid of it all together and create a new fashion system.”

Gaia added: “We need companies to acknowledge their short comings and be transparent and honest in their marketing.”

8.     More urgency and ambitious goals on plastics – We need more urgency and ambition from the Government on plastic targets and particularly on reducing plastic production. We want to see more from the government in regards to incentivising businesses for having sustainable business models. Further, companies should be focusing much more on reducing plastic production, not just on the recyclability of materials they use.

Amy Meeks said: “There is a lot more corporations need to be doing and they need to actually start meeting Government targets that are coming in and start reducing plastic production. We need the Government to be more urgent and ambitious with their targets. If we are going to tackle this issue of plastic, and use recycling as an aspect to it, we need 100% recyclable content in plastic products – it can’t be any less than that.”

During the event, panelists were also able to put their questions to Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas. Following YAC Con 2021, the eco-activists' concerns will be voiced in a virtual panel discussion hosted by Caroline, in association with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change.

The YAC panelists' views will be represented by Amy Meek who will attend the event to present the groups’ thoughts and recommendations. 

 Dr Bronwyn Claire, Senior Programme Manager for ClimateWise at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Shaun Spiers, Executive Director of Green Alliance also joined the Westminster panel discussion yesterday - 19 October. 

Lawrence VousdenHead of SustainabilityZurich UK said: “Young people are going to feel the biggest impact of climate change, yet their voices are not being heard. We are delighted to be hosting our second Youth Against Carbon Conference and to give more young people the platform they deserve. Like our panelists, Zurich is passionate about sustainability, and committed to driving positive change and so we’ll be taking their visions and recommendations to parliament to help drive real action.”

YAC Con builds on Zurich’s existing commitments to reducing its environmental impact and supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy.  In 2019, Zurich became the first insurer to sign up to the UN Global Compact Business Ambition Pledge that aims to limit average global temperature increases to 1.5°C.

It says it is also working towards achieving 100% renewable energy across all global operations by 2022.

The full YAC Con 21 event is available to view on Zurich’s YouTube or Instagram channels.

More information on Sustainability at Zurich can be found at https://www.zurich.com/en/sustainability

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