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EACEA National Policies Platform


9. Youth and the World

9.1 General context

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/11/2020 - 20:09

On this page
  1. Main concepts
  2. Youth interest in global issues

Main concepts

Youth policies for England do not specifically mention global issues such as climate change, green production and consumption, human rights, international development and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.


Youth interest in global issues

The Government does not currently monitor young people's awareness of, and interest in, global issues.  Where monitoring activities have collected data which includes information about youth interest in global issues, these may not be specific to young people or to England.

Examples included below cover sustainable development and green patterns of consumption and production. No sources for interest in human rights or UN Sustainable Development Goals are available. 

Sustainable development

Sustainability and Environmental Education (SEED), an English charity, published a report in 2019 as a result of a Youth Listening Project researching young people’s attitudes to sustainability. The project consisted of focus groups with 60 young people across the UK to design the survey, and 1700 survey responses, the majority of which were UK-based. With over 60% of young people having a reasonable level of understanding of the concept, 25% thought they already lived in a sustainable society compared to only 4% of an adult group. 68.39% of young people reported global warming as the main issues that would affect their lives in the future. 

Data from Visions for Change (UNEP, 2011), a report based on the results of the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles, presents information on young people's attitudes to and understanding of sustainable development issues. 8,000 young people aged between 18 and 29 were interviewed from 20 different countries, including the United Kingdom (UK). Main findings for the UK include:

  • 52.7 per cent of young people over one quarter ranked environmental degradation among their top three concerns.  
  • 28.8 per cent of young people placed the issue of poverty as number one priority.
  • 17.8 per cent of young people considered the issue of environmental degradation as number one priority.
  • Young people from the UK were found to have higher levels of awareness and interest in sustainability and environmental concerns than those from developing countries; for example, organic, seasonal and local and fair trade products were recognised by them as emerging norms.

Green patterns of consumption and production

In 2018, the National Centre for Social Research conducted research on British social attitudes to climate change. It found younger people were overall more worried about climate change and its consequences than older people. 31% of 18-34 year olds are “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change compared with just 19% of over-65s. 35% of graduates are “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change compared with 20% among those without any educational qualifications above GCSE level.

In Climate Change: Children's Challenge (UNICEF UK, 2013), UNICEF UK/Ipsos MORI polling in 2013 notes the following about children and young people in the UK, aged 11-16:

  • 89 per cent were aware of climate change.
  • 74 per cent were worried about how climate change will affect the future of the planet, believing that the world will have changed due to climate change by the time they are adults.
  • 73 per cent wanted the Government to do more about climate change.
  • 64 per cent were worried about how climate change will affect children and families in developing countries.

Currently, the UK is experiencing growing debate and concern surrounding its climate policies, stemming significantly from the youth climate movement and school strikes for climate.  A survey in 2019 by ComRes found that young people in the UK aged 18-34 were significantly more likely (60%) to say they care more about climate change than Brexit, compared to over-55s (43%). Another survey by YouGov and ClientEarth in 2018 found young people aged 18-24 are more likely than older cohorts to believe that the majority of the effects of climate change in the world are happening now or will happen in the future.

 In June 2019, the UK government announced their commitment to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.