UK Youth Participation in Climate Change Decision-Making: Perceptions of the International Climate Negotiations.

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:35
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Harriet THEW, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Youth are actively participating in climate change initiatives at all levels. However, little is known about the motivations and barriers which affect their participation and the degree to which their experiences shape their values, continued civic and political engagement and their broader life trajectories. 

This empirical research aims to develop a deep, rich understanding of the factors which motivate and the barriers which inhibit youth participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Data to be presented in this session comes from the first wave of a qualitative longitudinal study which will be collected in the lead up to and during the UNFCCC’s Twenty First Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in December 2015. 

In order to contribute to an emerging research agenda on young climate change activists, this study takes an ethnographic, case-study approach, focusing on a pro-active, dynamic and entirely youth-led group: the UK Youth Climate Coalition. This research will follow these young people from their early preparations through their engagement in this landmark conference and beyond.

Initial findings will shed light upon youth perceptions of COP 21, comparing members of the group with full conference access with their peers who lack conference accreditation and will thus seek alternative methods by which to influence the negotiations from the streets of Paris.  The influence of access upon individual perceptions, perceived efficacy and group dynamics will be discussed, along with the impact that the long-awaited global climate change agreement has upon youth motivations for continued engagement.

This research draws upon learning from a range of disciplines, combining sociological understanding of life transitions with geographical conceptualisations of identity creation and complementing environmental governance research on the role of non-state actors in climate change decision-making.