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Gen-Z fear that climate ‘forgotten’ prompts launch of UK carbon neutral eco summit

This autumn will see the launch of the UK’s first #carbon #neutral eco summit. Taking place on Tuesday 13 October, the Youth Against Carbon Conference (#YAC Con) aims to understand the role young people will play in the climate crisis – in response to fears it is taking a back seat during the Covid-19 crisis recovery. 

Research by the organiser, #Zurich Insurance, suggests young people in particular are concerned that climate change has fallen off the public agenda following the postponement of the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) – which was meant to be the crowing event of the ‘Year of Climate Action’. 

Almost two thirds (61%) of young people worry the government is only focused on the economy, and more than two thirds (68%) say tackling climate change is just as important as rebuilding the economy. Three quarters (75%) of young people would support some aspects of the extension of lockdown conditions to reduce impact on the environment for the long term, and a similar percentage (72%) believe tackling climate change should be a top property for world leaders. 

YAC Con aims to provide a platform for young people to discuss measures they think should be introduced to reduce carbon emissions, tackle climate change and protect the environment. The conference will take place virtually and will be live streamed via Instagram TV (IGTV) – ensuring it is as low carbon as possible.

Chaired by STEM communicator and BAFTA award winning TV presenter Maddie Moate and featuring an all youth panel, they will debate a range of topics. These will not just be lessons to be taken from the Covid-19 lockdown measures but also fast fashion, food consumption, plastic use, eco travel and transport pollution. The panel will also discuss proposed action to mitigate their impact on climate change. All carbon emissions generated during the conference will be offset using the Tree Nation scheme. 

Zurich is also searching for three additional young eco champions aged up to 24 years old to join the select panel of speakers. Successful applicants will also be eligible to pitch for one of two bursaries of £2500 to support their cause or project, as well as consultancy from Zurich’s senior sustainability experts. They will join Maddie, Mikaela Loach (22), an eco campaigner and sustainable lifestyle blogger, Mya-Rose (17) president of Black2Nature, and Amy and Ella Meek (16 and 14) – founders of Kids Against Plastic. The sisters are avid campaigners on a better way to use plastic to reduce its environmental impact and have encouraged hundreds more children and schools to get involved. 

Laura McAlpine, head of Sustainability at Zurich, commented: ‘Climate change presents a very real threat for future generations and our planet, and the postponement of COP26 doesn’t mean it is any less pressing. We are launching YAC Con to make sure it stays on the public agenda, while giving young people a platform to voice their concerns, take action and play their part in the UK’s transformation to a low carbon economy. As insurers we take our role very seriously. We have an opportunity to help drive a sustainable Covid-19 recovery, to improve global resilience by building back better, supporting our customers and our communities. As a responsible business we want to grasp this with both hands.’

Maddie Moate, chair of YAC Con, commented: ‘As we contemplate a return to our previous way of life, it is vital that we put sustainability and the fight to tackle climate change at the heart of it. For many young people, the impact of a changing climate is a huge concern, and one of the biggest threats the planet faces, yet so many young people feel helpless and confused about what they can do. If you’re one of these people, join us at YAC Con to hear more about what you can do to help change the world.’

The launch of YAC Con builds on Zurich’s existing commitments to reducing its environmental impact and supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy.  In 2019, Zurich became the first insurer to sign up to the UN Global Compact Business Ambition Pledge that aims to limit average global temperature increases to 1.5°C. It is also working towards achieving 100% renewable energy across all global operations by 2022.


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