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UN report looks to bolster environmental youth movement

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Young people have the power to secure a healthy future for the planet through their everyday actions and career choices, according to a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, GEO-6 for Youth, is a one-stop shop for young people looking to understand the state of the global environment and find out what they can do to ensure the planet’s health for generations to come.

GEO-6 for Youth was produced by a team of young authors and experts – with Brunel University London’s Dr Nibedita Mukherjee as co-chair of the report – as a follow-up to UNEP’s landmark Global Environmental Outlook 6 (GEO-6) Report, the world’s most comprehensive assessment of the state of the global environment, published in 2019.

“Youth empowerment is not just a slogan. It is absolutely essential to the health of our planet and its people,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “We have seen hugely impressive efforts by youth groups and movements around the world, but this is still not enough. Young people everywhere need to demand stronger environmental protections and take action in their own lives and careers to fight for a sustainable future.”

Among the conclusions of GEO-6 for Youth are that:

  • Global youth today are 1.2 billion strong, accounting for one-sixth of the global population.
  • Young people can help to bring about a sustainable future by making smart choices in their everyday lives, especially in regard to their use of resources and energy.
  • Straightforward lifestyle changes like eating less meat, reducing food waste and flying less frequently can – when taken collectively – lead to transformative changes at the global level.
  • Young people’s career choices will have a considerable impact on the world’s future. The transformation to a circular (green) economy could generate up to 60 million additional jobs globally in the next two decades and lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.
  • The transition to a circular (green) economy requires a new mindset and new skills. Targeted vocational training programmes and other initiatives can help to ensure that young people are well positioned to secure and retain green jobs.
  • Young people can play a pivotal role in spreading actions across generations by being agents of change, joining collective activities and raising awareness.

“The youth have tremendous potential to transform the world and bring about a sustainable future,” said Dr Mukherjee, a Lecturer in Global Challenges at Brunel who was one of the authors of the main GEO-6 report. Along with her fellow co-chair, she helped to ensure that the GEO-6 for Youth report is youth-friendly, evidence-based and inclusive.

“The youth group does have a vast ocean of diversity, varying according to developmental stage, career progression, language, race, ethnicity, gender and wealth, and according to individual merit, values, preferences and choices,” she explained. “This diversity makes it a big challenge to conceptualise and arrive at a consensus on solutions that will address global environmental challenges. And the global pandemic makes it even harder. I’m therefore truly humbled by the efforts made by the report’s author team.”

The report concludes that the most crucial actions that young people can take are to live in a sustainable way and demand and support the transition to a circular economy.

“We sincerely hope readers find the report insightful and useful for tackling the pressing environmental issues of our time – climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss – and for exploring the green career options that will bring about much-needed environmental change,” added Dr Mukherjee.

Adele Roccato, a UNEP Assessment Specialist who coordinated the report, said: “Young people have the opportunity now more than ever to build a greener future. Covid-19 has heavily impacted our societies, but we have the power to lead transformational change and act for a better future.”

Find out more about UNEP's GEO-6 for Youth report – and about studying Global Challenges at Brunel University London.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821
joe.buchanunn@brunel.ac.uk