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Youth action on climate change

How can we enable young people to take leadership now, and make a difference against climate change?

Submit proposals:
Deadline:  July 31, 2014, at 11:59:59 PM U.S. Eastern Time
Rules:  All entrants must agree to the 2014 Contest Rules.
Prizes: Winners be recognized and publicized by the MIT Climate CoLab and invited to showcase their proposals at a conference held at MIT, November 2014, where a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded. In addition:


Guidelines from Advisors and Fellows


For the purpose of this contest, “youth”? is loosely defined as “people under thirty”?. However, participants can also decide to apply the more precise definition of the United Nations: “persons between the ages of 15 and 24.”?  As long as the definition of “youth”? adopted by a proposal is clarified and justified, it will be considered relevant.



"We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying. [...] We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions."  More than 30 years after its publication, the words of the UN-commissioned Brundtland report (which coined the term "sustainable development") still ring very true.

Many political and economic leaders still seem geared towards short-termism, though the once distant notion of “future generations”? is growing more and more irrelevant: it is now clear that people up to 30 years of age could live to see catastrophic disruption on our Earth’s climate. However, the ”˜Millennial generation’ has yet to have the kind of influence that would allow its concerns to weigh significantly on the decisions made today.

To give the young and unborn a stronger voice, many strategies have been attempted: appointing a "special representative" for future generations, creating youth councils, embedding the principle of intergenerational justice into law... And young people themselves are getting increasingly vocal and organized, through initiatives such as fossil fuels divestment. How can we set the political, economic and cultural conditions that will accelerate ongoing efforts and put youth at the center of climate decision-making?


Advice for building relevant proposals

- Take a “big picture”? approach.  When we talk about youth mobilization on climate change, there is a tendency to consider one-off actions: clean up a beach, circulate a petition, send a message to your representative, e.g. Proposal authors are asked to focus more on how these conditions can be changed to increase youth’s influence in this arena. This can mean new and innovative ideas, as well as clever ways to scale-up existing initiatives.

- Look at all the aspects. Young people have many possible levers for action. Proposals could, in particular, aim at improving the education system, scaling-up youth-led climate initiatives, improving the availability of green jobs on the market, boosting youth representation in decision-making arenas, encouraging climate entrepreneurship, creating legal mechanisms to protect youth interests, reinforcing the youth climate movement, etc.

- Stay pragmatic. Proposals should be implementable in a relatively short window of time – though proposals focused on education, for instance, might take longer to deliver results. They should also be based, as much as possible, on a realistic perception of the situations of young people today, which of course can vary greatly from region to region: the policies affecting them, their access to education and jobs, their demographic weight in society, the importance they have in the public debate, etc.

Proposals can be at any stage of development:  ideas, plans, or initiatives already underway.