Young People Support More Radical Climate Action

Young people in Ireland are willing to fly less and eat less meat, but see the Government as having the responsibility to bring about change, according to new research from the ESRI. Most want to see non-essential domestic flights banned and car-free zones introduced in town and city centres.  

The findings are contained in EPA-funded research of youth in Ireland aged 16-24. The study found that young people judge environmental action to be urgent, are willing to change lifestyles and want stronger pro-climate policies. Many support bans and taxes on activities that cause emissions.

The study also found that most young people enjoy spending time in nature and that doing so more often is linked to stronger pro-environmental views.

While expressing broad support for more radical action on climate by government, business and individuals, most young people struggled to identify which individual changes would have the greatest impact on carbon emissions. Nonetheless, many intend to avoid high-emission actions such as taking long-haul flights and eating meat.

The findings reveal that environmental attitudes, knowledge and behaviours differ little between young people of different socio-economic backgrounds and those living in urban versus rural areas. The report also shows that knowledge about which behaviours have the largest impacts on emissions is no better among the present generation of young people than it is among older adults.

Ylva Andersson, lead author of the report, said: “Overall, our results show that young people in Ireland are concerned about climate change and highly motivated to act. But they will need resources and leadership to act on these motivations, given the complexity of the issues and young people’s limited understanding of how they can best help reduce emissions.”

Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “The environmental challenges facing Ireland can only be addressed if all citizens and stakeholders are engaged and empowered. The EPA is encouraged by the findings of this research, funded as part of the EPA-ESRI research programme, which shows that over 90% of young people in Ireland feel that protecting their environment is very important. The EPA places a high value and sense of urgency, on engaging with this audience to foster a greater understanding, a genuine sense of ownership and hope for the future.”