Young people can change patterns of consumption – given the chance

17.07.18 | News
Henrietta Flodell_HLPF2018
Photographer
Johannes Berg
Better intergenerational political work is the key to making patterns of production and consumption more sustainable in the Nordic Region and other high-income countries. What young people have to say was taken seriously by all of the international delegates who discussed Sustainable Development Goal 12 at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Despite topping the rankings in the recent 2018 SDG Index, the Nordic countries face substantial challenges when it comes to achieving SDG 12 about sustainable production and consumption, part of Agenda 2030. An analysis of the Nordic Region’s achievements and shortcomings in this sphere was launched at the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York the other day.

Henrietta Flodell, Sweden's youth delegate to the 2018 UN HLPF, delivered the main speech on behalf of the Nordic youth representatives at the fringe event on SDG 12 co-hosted by the Swedish government and the Nordic Council of Ministers on 13 July. She told her audience that the young people of today have the capacity and vision to forge change – provided closer dialogue between the generations is encouraged.

“Young people in the Nordic Region are redefining consumer culture right here, right now. We’re vegetarians, we don’t live in big flats, and we come up with new, circular solutions. But we are also frustrated by the lack of vision and the fact that we don’t have access to forums with the power to make change happen. It’s unreasonable to place such high expectations on young people as engines of change if we aren’t given the support needed to do the work,” Flodell says.

“Politicians must start talking to young people as citizens and not just as consumers. And, on our part, young people must shoulder the responsibility and show that the prosperity of our countries needs to be channelled properly to make change possible,” the youth representative concludes.

Experimentarium for circular business models

The event confirmed that the Nordic countries have much of what it takes to be leaders in sustainable production and consumption, for example the high level of trust in the Region, the welfare models and governance structures.

“With all this in their kit bag, the Nordic countries really could set the bar high and, for example, set a target of 100% sustainable procurement in five years. We need to dare to talk about rules and regulations,” says Charles Arden-Clarke, Head of the Secretariat of the UN Ten Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (the “10YFP”) and the One Planet Network.

Ashima Sukhdev, Government and Cities Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, noted that the Nordic countries have all the prerequisites to experiment their way to success with new circular business models.

“It is great to see how the Nordic countries have adopted the sustainability agenda. Nordic design culture has huge potential to act as a prime mover as production and consumption systems adapt to more circular economies, for example by designing more flexible and multifunctional buildings, or textiles that last longer,” Sukhdev says.

Change via towns, cities and local authorities

Given that two out of three of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban areas by the year 2050, towns and cities need to be involved in the process of change.

According to Dr Arab Hoballah, Team Leader for Sustainable Consumption and Production for the Bangkok-based organisation SWITCH-Asia, it is a mistake to forget small stakeholders like local authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Asia has a rapidly growing middle class, and we must remember that change can’t just be imposed overnight. Knowledge transfer is important, sharing information and processes rather than just results,” Hoballah says.

Generation 2030 – the Nordic Region accepting the challenges of SDG12 was co-hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Swedish government as part of the 2018 Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. It was held in New York on 13 July during the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

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