Net zero emissions by 2050? It’s a sham

Youth climate activist Lola Fayokun calls for climate justice not half measures

June 21, 2019 · 4 min read

Net Zero 2050. Possibly the most important phrase to emerge from this government, yet it sounds like jargon and it’s hardly inspiring, right? Well, that’s because it isn’t. In fact, Net Zero 2050, seen in some quarters as Theresa May’s attempt at leaving any semblance of a positive legacy, is a big ‘fuck you’ to those in the Global South, those around the world currently suffering the brutal and devastating effects of climate breakdown, and to the youngest in our society. Simply put, it sounds nice on paper, but most of those legislating for climate policy in our hallowed chambers of power won’t even be around to see the suffering of those who have done the least to contribute to the climate crisis.

Part of the announcement – that young people will be consulted on climate policy – came as quite a surprise. Having been involved in the movement that has played a massive role in pushing this legislation forward, I was taken aback that my view might be listened to in a meaningful way.

Then I dug a little deeper. The youth steering group, convened by the British Youth Council, has allegedly been meeting since February and will feed into discussions after July. This instantly throws up questions for me about the legitimacy of this group. When I asked those around me in the youth strike movement, barely anyone was even aware of the existence of this group. I would love to know who these young people are, and whose views are they representing? Where was my damned invite? I don’t want my voice as a young person to be thrown into a collective pot to legitimise weak and unambitious climate targets while the government waltzes around declaring its climate grandeur.

For the last four months, myself and tens of thousands of young people in the UK, and millions around the world, have been using our newfound collective voice to demand positive action to achieve climate justice. We are not just doing this for fun, to skip education, or to rebel for the sake of it: we’re fighting for our very lives.

This is just one of the reasons why this announcement has been a blow. We’ve let ourselves become vulnerable, exposed our gravest fears and put it all out there on the table only to be met with half measures and a whole load of back-patting among the corporate NGO sector. Let this serve as a timely reminder to you folks: you may have laid the groundwork over the last couple decades, but you didn’t force this through. While you congratulate yourselves and the government on 2050, take a moment to remember that 2050 will still result in extraordinary suffering for people across the world, particularly in the Global South. If you don’t have real climate justice at the heart of your strategy, you may as well rebrand your operation as fighting to maintain the status quo.

We will continue to push for, and demand the types of necessary action needed to combat the climate crisis. We’re calling for a Green New Deal that puts climate justice at its heart and we will continue to do so in the coming months, especially now we know the UK expects the 26th Conference of the Parties to be hosted on home soil.

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right. Right doesn’t just means emissions reductions. Right means creating a new, prosperous world for all, one in which our economies have been restructured along social and environmental principles to ensure everyone has a good quality of life, no matter where in the world you were born. Right means taking responsibility, changing our ways, and acting out of solidarity, rather than for personal gain. Young people in the UK are leading the way with this call, we’re able to shout the loudest and it’s time those in positions of power start properly listening. Engage with us meaningfully, include us in policy and decision-making processes. Revitalise our democracy, lower the voting age to 16 and let us have our democratic say.

Lola Fayokun is a 17 year old organising with the UK Student Climate Network

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