Young frontrunners demand climate action

08.07.19 | News
Ungdom på konferansen Youth Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle på Island i april.

Ungdom på konferansen Youth Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle på Island i april.  


Young people at the Youth Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle conference in Iceland in April.

They are young. They are committed. They are getting involved and leading the way in changing consumption patterns and lifestyles. However, a new survey shows that they are not at all impressed by the lack of ambition among Nordic politicians to make it easier for people to live more sustainably. Nordic youth want action now.

A new Nordic survey carried out under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ sustainability programme, Generation 2030, shows that young people in the Nordic countries are ready to change their lifestyles and consumption patterns to reduce their own and society’s climate footprint.

“It all started when I was eleven. I developed climate anxiety, and felt it was my duty to save the world – an eleven-year-old girl!” explains Julia Degerth (25) from Finland, one of 17 young role models interviewed in conjunction with the survey.

Facts about the analysis

The analysis examined the attitudes of young people aged 13-29 in the Nordic region regarding UN Sustainability Goal No 12 on sustainable consumption and production, and what this means for attaining Goal No 13 on immediate action to stop climate change and tackle the consequences – two major and interrelated challenges in the Nordic region.

Read more about the Nordic region and Sustainability Goal 12

The analysis was based on a quantitative survey involving 1211 respondents and a qualitative survey comprising in-depth interviews with 17 young role models on sustainable lifestyles in the Nordic countries.

The analysis was carried out by the consulting company Naboskap, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Generation 2030 programme. This programme works to implement and provide information about the 17 UN Sustainability Goals in the Nordic region, with a particular focus on Goal 12, Sustainable Consumption and Production.

Download the analysis Nordic Youth as sustainable changemakers here

Read more about Generation 2030

The most common ways in which young people are living more sustainably are by sorting waste (84 percent), reducing food waste (78 percent), buying less (64 percent) and avoiding the use of single-use plastic (60 percent). 

But they want so much more.

Concerned… but ready to take action

Young people in the Nordic region are willing to make significant changes in their own lives, to make a difference and contribute in the transition to a sustainable society.  

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they are ready to take action or make a contribution to bring about sustainable development. Because they are concerned. Eighty-nine percent admitted they are very concerned about the future because of climate and environmental issues.

“I think it’s difficult for most people to live sustainable lifestyles, because the norms regarding overconsumption and constantly buying new things are so strong. For me, it’s important not to point a finger or allocate blame, but instead to show how it can be fun and inspiring to live more sustainably,” says Tess Waltenburg, 26, from Sweden.

Frustrated by politicians

The survey also shows that young people are frustrated about how little the Nordic countries are doing to bring about more sustainable consumption. Nearly half of the respondents (48 percent) say they find it difficult to live sustainably, while only 26 percent find it easy.

The main challenge is neither money nor information, but access to sustainable products and lack of certifications, political reforms and regulations.

“It’s a paradox that politicians continue to talk about climate change as our biggest challenge, but what they’re still doing is what is causing the climate crisis,” says Gaute Eiterjord, 23, from Norway.

Everyone must take action

The young respondents in the survey feel that the responsibility for taking action lies with the general population, politicians and the business community, but argue that politicians and large global companies have a special responsibility. According to the survey, young people are generally dissatisfied with the lack of political action, and are demanding more ambitious and radical changes immediately.

The Nordic Council of Ministers will be presenting the results from the survey at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York on 16 July.

“It’s very inspiring to see that young people are showing such a desire to change their lifestyle to make our society more sustainable, and they are showing clearly what they are demanding from politicians. This analysis gives us a unique insight into what young people think and want. We’ll be using the analysis actively in our work to implement the UN Sustainability Goals in the Nordic co-operation,” says Anniina Kristinsson, Senior Advisor and Programme Manager for Generation 2030.

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