There are LOADS of academic articles and documentaries about climate change, but what’s missing from these are the voices of young people. And trust me it is young people who need to be heard, because we’re the ones who will have to live with the effects of a climate you create.
I am going to put my hand up and say it: I am not just thinking about my children, or my children’s children, I’m thinking about me. I will have to live with an environment that is changing for the worse.
"I am not just thinking about my children, or my children’s children, I’m thinking about me."
Since I was five I’ve been aware that the world I live in is changing, and that those who are polluting it now aren’t going to be here to experience the damage. Even in just my 17 years, the world has already gotten a whole lot worse – we’ve seen warming air and sea temperatures, leading to the polar ice caps melting, and the mass bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
Over the last couple of months, I and the other seven UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors met with and listened to over 1,500 young Australians across the country – from preschool through to high school and into young adulthood. We then worked with YouGov Galaxy to conduct an online survey of a further 1,000 young people aged 14 to 17 years – those who will soon be of voting age.
From all this, one message was resoundingly clear: the majority of young people are concerned about climate change, and they want to see action from decision-makers.
- Seventy-three per cent of young Australians aged 14-17 years say climate change is affecting the world “a lot” now.
- An overwhelming 95 per cent are concerned about pollution of our land, sea and air – 59 per cent are “very concerned”.
- Fifty-nine per cent view climate change as a threat to their safety – ranking it above terrorism, drugs and alcohol and bullying.
- Three quarters (75 per cent) say Australia should take action on climate change.
I know I’m not alone when I say I know how to recycle and I know to turn my lights off and have short showers, but there is only so much one person can do – and that’s a hard truth to swallow.
As a year 11 student at Sylvania Highschool in NSW put it: “I know that everyone says that there are small things that we can do. And yeah, we can. But ultimately if these corporations are still polluting and stuff, it doesn’t matter if we've reused the same plastic bag five times because they are still treating the world even worse.”
Who we look to now are the politicians, the people who can make solid legislative change to prevent our environment from being destroyed.
But we’re not seeing the leadership that’s needed – we’re not seeing action, and politicians are not listening to youth.
As a year 10 student from Victoria said:
"Global warming does exist, having and living in a bubble of denial isn't sustainable and isn't good for our society anymore. We need to have our politicians kind of wake up to the truth."
Another student, from the ACT said: "Sometimes I feel like they [the government] don't think that the problem is as pressing. But we are the future generation, the ones that are going to live with what comes of pollution – so I think that should be a high priority." – Female, Year 10 student at Radford College, ACT
On the 15th of March we saw the message that young people had for the government at the Schools Strike for Climate. I was there in my school uniform holding a sign and marching - surrounded by other young people so passionate about their environment that they were willing to make a stand.
While we can’t vote (yet) we are not too ignorant to understand politics or to demand more from the people who are supposed to be representing us.
Despite international news coverage and some incredible signs like ‘the planets hotter than Shawn Mendes’ or ‘the dinosaurs probably didn’t see it coming either’, lots of politicians still managed to make the climate strike about them and not about listening to young people.
Politicians are happy to pose for pictures with us and talk to us about themselves when they visit schools as a PR stunt, but when it comes to listening to and acting on the issue of our generation we can’t even get a foot in the door.
So, politicians listen up! Climate change matters to young people and it’s us that are going to be living in the world we are creating right now. So open the doors to the Australian young people and work with us to make positive legislative change before it’s too late.
"Politicians are happy to pose for pictures with us [...] but when it comes to listening to and acting on the issue of our generation we can’t even get a foot in the door."
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
18 Aug 2022
We won’t forget them. One year since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.
On 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and UNICEF pledged to stay and deliver. After decades of unrest and natural disaster, the country remains in crisis, and it’s a child rights crisis.
14 Aug 2022
Empowering young people in remote Australia
Dakota has already gained an impressive list of achievements, thanks to a new initiative by the Community Spirit Foundation supported by UNICEF Australia.
18 July 2022
Five myths about UNICEF
Although we are a United Nations agency, we receive no funding from them. We rely entirely on voluntary contributions from national governments and private donors like you.
15 July 2022
Rethinking screen-time for children in the time of COVID-19
How can children and families make the most of the increased reliance on screens, especially during lockdown?
16 May 2022
Headlines we can't forget about
News stories come and go quickly. Every so often a story will gather attention, only to fizzle out with the onslaught of another headline.
5 Apr 2022
More than just a month of fasting
As UNICEF Young Ambassadors past and present, these incredible young people have come together this Ramadan for a bigger purpose. Find out why this holy month of Ramadan is such an important time to give, reflect and to come together as a community, no matter who you are or what your beliefs.
17 Mar 2022
New life in a basement
Yuliya gently rocks her newborn baby in the basement of a medical centre in Kyiv. Vera is only days old, but her life is already in danger.
2 Mar 2022
How to talk to children about the conflict in Ukraine
The escalating conflict in Ukraine is a terrifying situation for children across the country. Families have been forced to leave everything behind and flee their homes.
5 Dec 2021
Test cricket captain Pat Cummins' promise to children
We are thrilled to announce that Pat Cummins has joined the UNICEF Australia family as an Ambassador.
18 Nov 2021
Meet our new Young Ambassadors for 2022
Every child and young person have a right to be heard on issues that affect their lives.