COP26 – The View from Gen Z
With today’s COP26 agenda dedicated to discussion around youth and public empowerment, we hand the megaphone over to five Gen Z colleagues at FleishmanHillard UK, to get their thoughts on the conference thus far.
As our Purposeful Business and Youth & Culture teams found overwhelmingly in their recent report, ‘The Voice of the Climate Generation‘, Gen Z is ready to be heard on issues related to the climate crisis. They’re clued up, they’re impatient and they want to see their commitment to the environment reflected in those they vote for or give their custom to.
Our colleagues’ views are characteristically frank and unsurprisingly illuminating. Now, as the research so comprehensively proves, we just need to listen to them.
HAVE BUSINESSES MANAGED TO CUT THROUGH TO GEN Z AT COP26?
TJ Jordan, Creative & Planning: “Only if they’ve tried to talk to them. Right now, young people want to hear that governments and businesses are collaborating in spite of traditional sticking points to make concrete commitments that will lead to radical action. But it’s tricky to stand out as a business when everyone wants a piece of the pie and has a commitment to make. Those who’ve made genuinely radical but actionable commitments and communicated them with respect to Gen Z’s preferred modes and tone of engagement will have fared best.”
IS GEN Z’S VOICE BEING HEARD BY THOSE AT THE CONFERENCE?
Grace Duncan, Technology: “You can shove the climate crisis up your a****,” chanted climate activist extraordinaire Greta Thunberg outside the COP26 conference centre earlier this week. Hers is one of the only Gen Z voices to have come out loud and clear from COP26 so far and I am sceptical about how much she – and anyone else from my generation – has achieved over the past week. Gen Z may be asking for a lot, but without invites to the conference, it is hard for young activists to be heard in a way that directly leads to meaningful change. The week’s landmark decisions, including the reduction in coal use, the pledge to reverse deforestation and increasing green financing, are ones that reflect – but don’t meet – the wants of Gen Z. Until we have a seat at the table, it is difficult to envisage a summit that my generation will leave appeased and contented.”
CAN BUSINESSES BE TRUSTED TO CUT CARBON? OR IS IT TIME FOR NEW ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION?
Alex Baker, Public Affairs: “Fundamentally, COP26 is a diplomatic conference, and so the majority of young people attending in Glasgow are doing so as protestors rather than as participants. Greta Thunberg has captured the Gen Z perspective in her derision of “Blah, blah, blah” politics, affirming that young people are looking for businesses prepared to make tangible commitments in the short term. Gen Z will also look to politicians to introduce tougher measures for industry, but are much more prepared to challenge brands directly through the communication channels that this generation has grown up with.”
HAS THIS BEEN A SUCCESS OR FAILURE FOR PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON AND COP26 PRESIDENT ALOK SHARMA?
Daniel Davies, Public Affairs: “From a climate perspective the conference has been relatively successful for Johnson and Sharma, pledges have been made that could limit warming to 1.9 degrees Celsius, better than the 2.7 degrees the conference started with. However, from a ‘global Britain’ perspective, it has been a disaster. Long queues, accessibility issues and the exclusion of activists have all harmed Britain’s reputation – making them a laughingstock among many cynical young voters.”
WHAT CAMPAIGNS HAVE STOOD OUT AROUND COP26?
Tom Orridge, Healthcare: “The Don’t Choose Extinction campaign from the UN Development Programme takes a perhaps overplayed angle on the climate crisis but uses its platform masterfully, offering credible and actionable tools to combat the most common excuses people make for failing to take action on climate. In a space often filled with too much chinwagging and not enough solutions, it makes for a breath of fresh air. Wagamama’s “Vegamama” campaign is another favourite (think Greta Thunberg meets Godzilla). It’s a great example of how companies putting their money where their mouth is on climate (Wagamama recently committed to making 50% of its menu plant-based) can help them earn share of voice in a densely crowded space.”
Download ‘The Voice of the Climate Generation: Understanding Gen Z and Climate Comms’.