Climate change will be the world’s biggest challenge over the next decade, according to a global survey of young people carried out by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company.
Unveiled at COP22, the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Morocco, the ‘Masdar Gen Z Global Sustainability Survey’ is the first global survey of the attitudes of young people aged 18-25 – the demographic cohort known as ‘Generation Z’ – towards climate change, sustainable development and renewable energy.
The landmark online survey spoke to nearly 5,000* Post-Millennials in 20 countries across the Middle East & North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia. Countries were also classified according to their economic development as either developed, emerging or frontier.
Carried out earlier this year to coincide with Masdar’s 10-year anniversary, the survey offers a valuable insight into the thinking of tomorrow’s decision makers on the critical issues of energy and sustainability.
The findings clearly illustrate the level of concern among young people about climate change, with 40% of those surveyed naming it among the biggest challenges facing the world in the next decade, ahead of the economy (34%), terrorism (32%), poverty & inequality (29%) and unemployment (29%).
Post-Millennials also made clear their appetite for a stronger say on sustainability, with eight in ten (83%) saying governments need to listen more to young people about the issue. A similar number (80%) believe current leaders have not done enough to protect the environment, and it is up to their generation to build a more sustainable future.
They thinkgovernment and the private sector share responsibility for developing clean technology (81%), but they expect more government investment in renewable energy (84%).
According to Masdar’s survey, today’s youth also see their own behaviour as particularly important when it comes to supporting clean technology. Half (50 per cent) believe that getting individuals to change their behaviour is one of the main barriers to investing in renewable and clean technology.
Encouragingly, almost two in three young people (59%) said they are interested in working or studying in an area related to sustainability. This trend is particularly pronounced in emerging (67%) and frontier (72%) economies.
“The UAE believes youth engagement is critical in our path to a sustainable future,” said His Excellency Dr Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment. “The findings from Masdar’s Gen Z Sustainability Survey reflect the UAE’s leadership in advancing and creating awareness of renewable energy and sustainable development worldwide.”
Her Excellency further emphasised the importance of youth research for future policy creation and decision-making.
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “There are marked differences between countries and regions in young people’s views on the environment and climate change, but one thing is clear. There is huge demand among our youth for corporate and public investment in clean technology and renewable energy. The winners in the green economy will be those who can harness this youthful idealism and combine it with regulations, long-term investment, cultural change and political action.”
The survey found that around half of Generation Z (46%) think they are setting the best example when it comes to environmentally responsible behaviour, and many are prepared to use their consumer power to reward or punish companies over their sustainability record. Almost half (46%) have chosen to spend more money on products from a company that behaves sustainably, and 31% have boycotted a company that they perceived as following unsustainable practices.
Young people in developed countries are more concerned about the financial costs of going green than those in less developed nations. But solar power was the preferred future energy source overall.
Commenting on the global Gen Z survey, Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, said: “We are pleased to see the high level of understanding of young people from right across the world of the importance of delivering a more sustainable future. Over the last 10 years, the clean energy industry has become one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic growth markets.
“As we look ahead, the findings of our global survey provide an important insight into the action required to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and clean technologies. Today’s youth are the policymakers, industry leaders, technical experts and consumers of tomorrow – an audience with whom we and the wider energy and sustainability community must engage to realise a more sustainable future.”