The British Council launches compelling report – ‘Young People on Climate Change: A Perception Survey’

  • An overwhelming 66% of participants agreed that climate change will be the biggest threat to Sri Lanka in the coming years
  • Notably six out of ten people in rural Sri Lanka think that climate change will be the biggest impending risk
  • Encouraging to know that 70% of the youth participants believe they can play the role of an awareness agent on climate change
  • Over 24% of the youth considered less or no access to knowledge resources as the biggest challenge with another staggering 62.5% not having access to affordable capacity building resources on climate action

Young people aged 18-35 years are among the most vulnerable groups to climate change impacts, particularly in developing countries like Sri Lanka. Seeing as young people are also the future leaders and decision-makers whose attitudes and actions will prove decisive for how the world addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation, it is critical to get a deeper understanding of their perceptions and understanding of climate change and action.

To understand the perceptions of young people in Sri Lanka on climate change and potential action to combat it, the British Council conducted an extensive survey with a respondent base of 1000 youth aged between 18-25 as well as 10 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with youth aged between 26-35 and interviewed over 25 policy makers, climate youth leaders, and other key stakeholders. British Council Research, Evaluation, and Monitoring Unit (REMU), South Asia together with SLYCAN Trust led on the research study.

The research report was formally launched on the 28 and 29 October, at a two-day Youth in Climate Action Virtual Conference hosted by the British Council, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka.  The event was successfully concluded with valuable contributions made by the Ministries of Environment, Youth and Sports, Wildlife and Forest Conservation and Regional Corporation as well as Lisa Whanstall, , British Deputy High Commissioner, Sri Lanka, the UNDP Global Youth Program Manager together with the active participation of young people advocating for climate action. The virtual conference will serve as a much-needed platform and agency for setting up dialogue and conversation between key stakeholders, leading to recommendations and ideas for future, whilst discussing how young people can effectively contribute to climate action priorities set out by Government of Sri Lanka, UK and COP26. 

“Action and innovation to address climate change is so important and harder to do than simple talking or tweeting about it. I hope to see real measurable action happening post conference, for us and for the future.” shared Anoka Abeyrathne, Climate Lead for Royal Commonwealth Society, who delivered the inspirational keynote session.

The research is part of the British Council’s Climate Connection programme, which aims to bring people around the world together to address the challenges of climate change, through arts and culture, education and the English language. The conference came ahead of United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland from 1 – 12 November 2021, with the UK presiding as the Summit’s President.

Commenting on the collaboration, Malin Herwig, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, ‘COVID-19 has made people, the world over, experience the fragility of life on earth. Through UNDP’s extensive work in supporting Sri Lanka realize its climate priorities, young people are essential to play a key role in this transformation pathway – to put nature at the heart of sustainable development. It’s encouraging to hear that 70% of the youth interviewed believe they can play the role of an awareness agent on climate change. Let’s draw on the young people for the necessary transformation.’

The findings from the report have also been used to write a Global Youth Letter, a plan of action setting out young people’s aspirations and recommendations around climate change. The letter directly addresses the policymakers and world leaders who will attend the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

British Council Sri Lanka Country Director, Maarya Rehman said, ‘Climate emergency is the biggest crisis facing our planet so it’s no surprise that British Council research has found it’s the number one priority for young people the world over. I’m confident that the research will be a powerful piece of work that can be fed into the National Action Plan at a policy level and more importantly the findings are set to send a strong message about the importance of including youth voices in the climate action conversation.’


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