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The 2050 Climate Group: Scotland's youth group leading the fight on climate change

Sarah Cowie

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. Margaret Mead

You might not have heard of them, but a group of young people are leading the way in Scotland’s fight against climate change.

The 2050 Climate Group was founded in 2014 in collaboration with youth charity Young Scot with the aim of leading a social movement through engaging, educating and empowering Scotland’s young people to act on climate change. The result was the Young Leaders Development Programme (YLDP), a series of six modules incorporating climate change awareness and leadership skills to provide participants with the ambition and confidence to tackle what is arguably the biggest threat young people now face.

The original YLDP kicked off in 2015 with around 100 young people coming on board, and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. The applications received for YLDP2 more than doubled from the previous year and the group was already attracting a more diverse pool of young talent. The next YLDP is set to be even bigger and is proof that word of mouth and using our spheres of influence can be a really effective.

But don’t take my word for it. The 2050 Climate Group has been recognised both at home and internationally for the unique and vital work it is doing.

  • In 2017, the Group won the Contribution to Skills Award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards.
  • It was named best project in the United Kingdom at the prestigious Energy Global Awards.
  • It was the only Scottish organisation to be invited to speak at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Marrakech in 2016. It has attended the COP as civil society observers for three years running.
  • First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called the YLDP a “world first” and requested a private meeting with our representatives at last year’s COP in Bonn.

I applied and was accepted onto YLDP in April last year and I can confidently say it is one of the most valuable things I have ever done. I have learned so many things that have made me re-evaluate the way in which the world works, and how harmful practices and taking our planet for granted are usually the norm. Some of the lessons have been practical, like Rebecca Willis’s talk Climate Change through the eyes of a Politician, explaining that while politicians do care about climate change, issues must be framed in a way that matter to their constituents if action is to be taken. Some of them have been emotional, like Paula McGuire of Paula must try harder speaking about her journey from severe and debilitating anxiety, to setting herself the challenge of trying all 17 Commonwealth disciplines and getting noticed by national media along the way. There were also some unsettling realities that made all the things we were discussing and learning about really hit home. Young Leader Cameron McKay’s documentary Climate Change and Scotland’s Future explored how rural communities in Scotland, such as South Uist, were at risk of losing their livelihoods, heritage and homes because of rising sea levels which threaten the crofting and farming industries they are reliant on.

The high calibre of the programme content and speakers show that this is not just a well-meaning group with good intentions, it is a dynamic group of young people from all walks of life who are committed to making tangible changes and acting against climate change. It also turns on its head the idea that to be a leader you must be experienced, that you must be in a position of power, and you must know more than everyone around you. In reality, all that is needed to be a good leader is a vision, and the determination to make that vision a reality.

YLDP2 is almost over, but there is still a lot of work to do. I am currently in the middle of organising our 2018 Youth Climate Summit which will take place in April. This is our chance to extend our our reach, to attract new and determined members, and for friends, colleagues and classmates who perhaps have never given climate change a thought, or do not believe they have the capacity to create change, to come and experience change in action. Inspired by the Scottish Government’s Just Transition and Year of Young People, we are going to explore these themes and how we can achieve the transition to a low carbon economy that is just for all of us. It is guaranteed to be a great event and we have already secured some of the most engaging and influential speakers from around the world. If you would like to be kept updated on the Summit, be sure to check out the 2050 Climate Group website and sign up to the mailing list, alternatively, find us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest!

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