How long before young people are protesting on your doorstep for action on energy transition?
It started in August 2018 with Swedish school girl, Greta Thunberg, sitting outside the Swedish Parliament building; the School Strike for Climate movement was born. In little over 6 months, this has escalated from one passionate individual to tens of thousands of young people all over the world striking from school to mobilise their governments and large organisations to take serious action on climate change. For Greta, she has gone from protesting outside the Swedish Parliament to directly challenging CEO’s of Global Business at Davos, speaking at COP24 and TED (watch here). She is now the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The #SchoolStrike4Climate movement is only going to get bigger and become more impactful, particularly with social media and mainstream media engaged and following every step. The rapid growth of this movement demonstrates the need to change, but also the pace at which young people engage. The energy transition must happen fast, and young people are clearly engaged in this process.
At the moment these inspired young people are focussing on parliament buildings, but large emitters and fossil fuel producers could be next. The oil and gas industry already has issues attracting young adults; which will be a much greater challenge when the current teenagers enter the job market in 5-10 years.
It’s not just schoolchildren who are campaigning for a quicker transition to a low carbon economy. In January 2019, environmental protestors chained themselves inside the National Museum of Scotland to protest at the Scottish Oil Club dinner; their aim being to stop a night of, what they considered to be, inappropriate celebration and highlight the climate damage done by oil and gas.
The BBC documentary Blue Planet II acted as a catalyst for public awareness of plastic waste driving action by Governments, corporates and supermarkets. Similarly, schoolchildren striking for climate action could start to impact the bottom line of fossil fuel operators and large fossil fuel users, as increased public focus moves to support them. The only mitigation for this risk is full commitment to rapid change to deliver the energy transition. In oil and gas, this means rapid diversification into low carbon power, the development of clean hydrogen and the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Future investment in oil and gas exploration and production activity is now in question.
Young people’s language and actions are powerful and the lobbying for governments and organisations to take action to achieve the 1.5℃ target is gaining momentum. These teenagers will soon grow into adults with disposable income, making their own purchasing decisions. They live in a fast-paced world and their buying power can quickly switch into or away from organisations who are not in line with their values; decisions which they share online to encourage their peers to do the same.
They will also be choosing career paths, which fit their beliefs. In order to attract young talent, the energy industry, particularly the oil and gas sector, and energy intensive industries needs to make significant changes. Teenagers who are picketing today outside parliament buildings are not going to work in what they consider to be a ‘dirty industry’. Increasingly the focus will be on a 1.5℃ compliant career path.
Greta Thunberg has inspired a generation to take action and fight for their climate future. If the energy sector wants passionate and smart young people in its future workforce, it needs to listen up and act now.
Author: Charlotte Hartley, Regulatory Pilot, Pale Blue Dot Energy