Friday, 23 April 2010

The issues we care about

By Luke, Tagd climate ambassador

In the run-up to the general election, the voices of young people are drowned out in the storm surrounding the contest to occupy No. 10 as many of us (myself included) will not be old enough to vote on May 6th – more about this later!

The issue that most concerns me is the current global environmental crisis. Attending UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen in December and having the opportunity to get involved with the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s youth advisory board has impressed upon me the need for leadership on climate change at the level of governments.

The meeting of world leaders in Copenhagen at the end of last year provided a woefully inadequate mandate for international action, and the world is looking forward to more positive outcomes at a similar conference in Mexico at the end of 2010. However, there is a mountain to be climbed before this can be achieved, and the importance of countries like the UK in this process should not be underestimated.

We have, in recent decades, been at the forefront of trying new renewable energy technologies and creating tough national climate legislation to reduce emissions. We are one of the leading nations on the issue of climate change within the EU, a group of countries that plays a vital role in global negotiations by mediating the often heated debates between poorer and richer countries.

So apart from continuing the legacy of striving to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, a new government must also increase the part that the UK plays in pushing for a fair, ambitious and binding deal in Mexico at the end of this year. Scientists predict catastrophe if we can’t start to reduce global emissions by the end of this decade, so the potential effect that a new government, sitting in power for at least half of that decade, could have on this problem is huge. Children around the world are already bearing the brunt of global warming: a government that is weak on climate change is a government that is blind to the needs of our present and future wellbeing.

Secondly, whoever is in charge after May 6th must recognise the economic opportunities that come with reducing our emissions, and must fully embrace and support the flourishing of a low-carbon economy. As we emerge from economic turmoil, thousands of young people are finding themselves without the jobs they desire or have trained for. The government must work tirelessly to ensure that all young people are able to find employment and that they are given the suitable training to maximise their job prospects. Supporting a low-carbon economy provides a perfect way to do this: by showing teenagers at an early stage the opportunities that exist already or will exist in a few years, from cavity wall insulators to wind turbine engineers, a government can improve the hopes of loads of young people and also ease the transition that is needed to meet our emissions targets.

Obviously these aren’t the only important issues that face our country today. However, these are the ones that I care about most, and I fear that they risk being lost in the clamour for political power.

Finally, in the last couple of months I’ve realised that there is something else that annoys me greatly: the voting age! I’ll be 18 on June 29th, and I find it insulting and absurd that I and so many of my peers, whilst being able to join the armed forces and face death for our country, whilst being eligible to pay taxes, and whilst facing the nightmare of possible unemployment, are not considered competent to choose a political party who will send us to war, take our money or provide us with jobs. A general election affords us an opportunity to do something about this absurd situation – to lower the voting age, so that more young people get engaged with politics and have our voices heard on the issues we care about.

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