Younger generations, in addition to being economically worse off than their parents, face a future of unprecedented environmental breakdown.
Damaging human impacts on the environment go beyond climate breakdown to encompass most other natural systems, from soil to biodiversity. These impacts have reached a critical level, driving a complex process of overall environmental breakdown that threatens social and economic stability.
Younger and future generations will disproportionately bear the burden of having to rapidly transform economic systems in order to decelerate environmental breakdown while withstanding its increasingly destabilising consequences. This is an unprecedented challenge.
Leaders in older generations are failing to act and so younger and future generations face a toxic inheritance: a future of compounding environmental breakdown and destabilisation. In response, many young people are already leading the discussion on the threats of environmental breakdown and the need for action. This leadership should be better recognised, including through formal representation of the interests of younger and future generations in decision-making systems.
Using the UK as a case study, we recommend that the government adopt a Future Generations Act that protects the interests of future generations and their right to a stable environment throughout policymaking.
The voice of current younger generations should be formalised by enfranchising 16- and 17-year olds, alongside reducing the discount rate – a financial tool that affects the attractiveness of different projects in which governments and businesses consider investment. These measures should form part of accelerated action by government to respond to environmental breakdown and to help younger and future generations realise a more sustainable, just and prepared world.
In my view it's time to act, what do you think?