With COP26 underway in Glasgow, Mike Thornton, the Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, talks about its Switch Off Fortnight, beginning on 8th November

A recent global survey of young people highlights the depth of anxiety that many are feeling about climate change. This poll of 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 across 10 countries (undertaken by Kantar and led by Bath University) produced stark findings. Nearly 60% said they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change; more than 45% said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives; and three-quarters feel the future is frightening.

We all know that human activity is significantly damaging our planet but it is crucial to empower people of all ages with the knowledge and tools to make positive change. Tackling the scale of this global issue can understandably feel daunting yet a multitude of individual actions can create big change. The world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 to 24 — the largest generation of youth in history. Young people have a critical role in helping to ensure awareness and action.

All of this means it is important to show young people some simple but significant ways that they can contribute to tackling the climate emergency. That is why the Energy Saving Trust Foundation has partnered with the Pod to launch Switch Off Fortnight this November. Switch Off Fortnight will start on 8 November coinciding with COP26 – the UN convention on climate change, being hosted in Glasgow.

“Young people have a critical role in helping to ensure awareness and action – even though the scale of the issue can feel daunting”

The two-week nationwide campaign, which has run annually since 2008, encourages young people to make simple energy saving changes that can have a positive impact. Schools who join the campaign receive free practical support, curriculum-linked learning resources and information to help students understand what net zero is, why COP26 matters and what steps they can take to reduce their energy use.

We know that people across the UK need support to save energy and carbon to live more sustainably; and there has been increased interest and attention around climate change in the run-up to COP26. Practical initiatives such as Switch Off Fortnight are essential in helping to inform and inspire people to make the changes we all need. The tips and advice we give to young people include turning off lights when not in use, turning off appliances and walking and cycling more where possible.

We know this can make a positive difference; 88% of secondary school students who took part previously said Switch Off Fortnight helped them understand how to use energy responsibly. In addition, 85% of primary school children involved said they took steps at home to save energy afterwards – indicating the lasting positive impacts of the programme. For the young people involved in these kinds of initiatives, learning more about climate change and knowing the facts around the issue allows them to play their part in getting to net zero.

The journey to net zero will not be an easy one but it is essential and well within our collective grasp. We all stand to benefit from a low carbon future; and if we fail to act now, it will be future generations who pay the price. Young people can help to be a catalyst behind the change we need and we must equip them with the knowledge, tools and evidence to accelerate change.

Find out more about Switch Off Fortnight at energysavingtrust.org.uk Schools can register with the Pod, which is free, quick and easy to do jointhepod.org

Further reading: Grow2Know and an inspiring community gardening project