This past Friday, HK2050 is Now team member, Fiona Lau, spoke at a youth climate forum organized by Us for Planet, a youth-led platform advocates for a more sustainable future. She was inspired by the passion and maturity shown by the young speakers, all of whom were under 20 years old.
Top to Bottom: Themis Kung (Climate Action Hong Kong), Letitia Chan (Facilitator, Us for Planet), Eugenia Chow (@eugreenia, vegan-blogger), Fiona Lau (HK2050isNow), Kamakshi Bhavnani (Us for Planet), A Forum Participant
Most of us are familiar with climate youth activists such as Greta Thunberg and our own Lance Lau from Hong Kong who is known for his climate strike outside his school’s gate. It made us wonder how many young people in Hong Kong feel strongly about protecting the planet? How do we work with them on this journey to fight climate change, and better yet, what can we learn from them?
Climate change raises uncertainty about our future, but, amid this uncertainty, one thing is certain: We will leave the Earth to young people and future generations. That’s why we need to carve out space for young people in Hong Kong to be educated about climate change and provide opportunities for them to act and be heard. This new generation has increasingly strong social and environmental awareness and is set with the energy and knowledge to lead us towards a low carbon and climate-resilient future.
At HK2050isNow.org, we engage daily with around 170 young people aged between 13-24 through our social media platforms. In that space, our young audience is curious and inquisitive. We discuss topics from lifestyle changes, climate justice issues to sustainable supply chains.
Some also try to take on more challenging questions such as how can we talk to our parents about climate change? How do we adopt a plant-based diet when our local cuisine is mainly meat-based? How do we persuade our peers to go on climate strikes? These discourses on our platform let us peek into our youth community to see their ability to think critically and to have the courage to speak up.
“Currently, climate education is not the top priority in schools, especially local schools,” Themis Kung, a co-leader of Climate Action Hong Kong said during the Friday forum. “Students find it difficult to find time to participate in climate action.”
An example of a student-led group, Climate Action Hong Kong is responding to the global climate movement and pushes for youth voices. The group uses the hashtag #morethan1% online and urges the use of renewable energy and low-carbon development broadly in Hong Kong. However, youth action against climate change is not without resistance, even on a global stage. Lawrence Iu, Project Lead of HK2050isNow, attended COP25 in Madrid, where he observed that although youth engagement was “allowed,” they were not taken seriously. A demonstration organized by Climate Action Network, joined by mostly young climate activists to urge more ambitious climate policies, was rejected by the COP organizers, for example.
Photo by Climate Action HK
“Existing social, economic and political structures hinder young people’s capacity to lead change and make positive contributions,” Lawrence said.
This was echoed at the Friday forum, where panelists shared the constraints, they faced in encouraging climate action. An inflexible school curriculum, heavy parental control, and our Asian culture makes it difficult for young people to voice their environmental concerns, they said. While some students share their thoughts on social media, we believe many more young people in our city have the potential to contribute to Hong Kong’s low carbon future.
Civic Exchange and HK2050 is Now are committed to providing an inclusive platform for people of all ages to contribute and participate in climate discussion and action. Luckily, we don’t work alone.
This year, we are partnering with NGOs and are developing school programs to bring climate science into local schools. We are also advising students across several major universities on a plastics solutions competition, partnering with F&B industry leaders to model a more sustainable catering industry.
One thing is clear: climate action is a meaningful opportunity to address youth priorities. It would be good to see equitable support both technically and financially for youth groups leading the change to restore our ecosystems, and to promote climate action and sustainable development for our city.
Feature photo by SCMP
By Fiona Lau, Programme Manager at Civic Exchange & Hong Kong 2050 is Now