open letter on climate change from the young people of australia

Dear Australia,

We are young Australians, and we are confused and frustrated. Why does our government refuse to take climate change seriously when, as a country, we have the capacity to do it?

Young people like us are rarely invited to have their voice heard on things that matter. We are described as having potential, as though our power to bring about change lies dormant. There is just a month to go until the most important international summit on climate change since Kyoto, and still no one asks our opinion.

We are proclaimed as being our world’s future, as though we don’t exist in the present. We are handed platitudes in exchange for our patience. But climate change won’t wait for our generation to grow up and take action. Change needs to happen now and we will have a say in what our current and future world looks like.

Unsurprisingly, we, the collective of Australian youth, have opinions. Lots of opinions. And they all come down to one thing: the Australian Government is not doing enough about climate change.

It is not just ourselves we are concerned about. Climate change is affecting the rest of the world, and that includes young people just like us in the developing world. They are scared of climate-related disaster in the present and frightened about the future. We are all vulnerable to displacement, disease, reduced living standards and loss of life because of our changing climate, but children and young people in developing countries are significantly more at risk.

That means climate change isn’t just a priority for us, but for pretty much everyone else our age, too – no matter where in the world we live. We have a very good idea about just how little the Australian Government is doing to combat climate change, especially in comparison to the rest of world.
Child stands amid the debris in Santo Nino village, Tanauan, Leyte
Child stands amid the debris in Santo Nino village, Tanauan, Leyte
Parents grieve at their family grave by the highway in the city of Tanauan, Leyte
Parents grieve at their family grave by the highway in the city of Tanauan, Leyte
Young people like us are rarely invited to have their voice heard on things that matter
Young people like us are rarely invited to have their voice heard on things that matter
So we demand that Australia does its part to keep temperature rise below two per cent above pre-industrial levels by reducing our domestic emissions – by at least 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030. And then to make progress to zero net emissions by 2050.

We demand serious investment in renewable energy and an immediate shift away from activities that create carbon pollution and destroy our nation’s natural environment.

We demand that the Government embed learning about Australia’s contribution to climate change in our national curriculum, including our impact on the poorest countries. And we want to see nationwide annual consultations with youth about what we want the Government to do to address climate change.

We demand that the Government address the causes and the impacts of climate change in the world’s poorest countries by contributing $400 million next year – and that’s over and above our existing commitments.

In short, we demand that our Government take action not just to protect our future but the futures of children and young people in developing countries at most risk from the impacts of a changing climate.

In short, we demand that our Government take action not just to protect our future but the futures of children and young people in developing countries at most risk from the impacts of a changing climate.
That’s because our world is breaking. Australia, why won’t you do your part to fix it?

Mines are scarring our earth’s skin and our world is suffocating from greenhouse gases. Pollution creates sores on our earth’s body and the planet is catching fever. Until we respond to this crisis, we will go down as the worst doctors ever. Weren’t we taught that prevention is better than cure?

We are the young people of Australia and we want to be heard. We have a right to be heard. After all, their future is in your hands.

Sincerely,
The Young People of Australia

This letter was written by Plan International Australia’s Youth Ambassadors, as part of a report based on consultations with 435 Australians aged between 13 and 25. Read the report here.

Isabel Dunstan | 31st October 2015

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