Research reveals Gen Z are locked out of the climate debate

On the back of the world’s biggest climate change conference, COP26, new research released today by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity, Global Action Plan, shows the extent to which Generation Z feel excluded from the climate conversation.

The research found that even though nine out of ten young people aged 16-24 care about the climate crisis, only a third are talking about it with their friends. It found that many of them feel excluded from the conversation as they don’t see enough ‘people like them’ speaking up on the topic and don’t feel knowledgeable enough about the climate crisis.

As a result, only 10% of young people are posting about the climate crisis online as they’re worried about being judged or being ‘cancelled’.

While the research found that seven in ten young people believe their age group has a ‘crucial role’ to play in solving the climate crisis, more than half (58%) say it’s hard for young people to get involved in conversations on climate change.

Six out of ten (59%) surveyed say they want to get involved in conversations about the topic, and almost a third (29%) want to know what actions they can take to tackle climate change.

The study shows that a third (31%) of young people would feel more comfortable talking about the climate crisis with their mates if they knew more about the subject.

Two thirds (67%) believe more could be done to engage younger people when it comes to solving climate change, like seeing more people from different backgrounds or their community talking about climate change (63%) and telling more human stories about its impacts. Only 16% of Gen Z feel that those who post on social media about the climate crisis are very relatable to them.

Furthermore, more than a quarter (26%) lamented the lack of high-profile green campaigners they relate to. They want to hear their friends talking about climate change more than any other role models or ambassadors, such as social media influencers or TV stars.

Tracey Herald, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Virgin Media O2, said: “Despite COP26 being a catalyst for conversations about the climate crisis, our research with Global Action Plan shows that young people feel excluded from the debate. Gen Z will be crucial in helping the world respond to the climate crisis and we need to do all we can to give them the confidence to influence change and take action.

“That’s why Virgin Media O2 has partnered with Hugo and Seapa for a special episode of their ‘Chattin’ Sh*t podcast. They’re joined by Gen Z climate activist, Francisca Rockey, to chat about the climate crisis and the actions – big and small – we can all take to tackle it.”

Sonja Graham, CEO of Global Action Plan, said: “Young people are deeply concerned about climate change and want to help the planet. Our research with Virgin Media O2 has helped to uncover some of the barriers and fears that are preventing them from joining in with climate conversations. As conversations are the precursor to action, it’s more important than ever that young people feel comfortable and empowered to speak up – with their friends, their families, and on their social media networks.”

In response, Virgin Media O2 has partnered with the stars of “People Just Do Nothing” Allan ‘Seapa’ Mustafa and Hugo Chegwin, to create a special climate-focussed episode of their hit podcast, “Chattin’ Sh*t”, to encourage young people to get involved in the debate.

During the episode, the comedy duo is joined by Gen Z Climate activist, Francisca Rockey, to “chat sh*t” about the climate crisis and help answer some of their questions – including how to get more involved in conversations online without fear of being called out or “cancelled”.

Seapa and Hugo said: “We are the masters at chattin’ sh*t about anything and everything. But when it comes to the climate crisis, even we don’t know where to begin – and we know our fans sometimes feel this way too. The research by Virgin Media O2 and Global Action Plan got us thinking how we can use our talking powers for good use and help answer some of the questions people like us are too scared to ask. We talk about girls, trainers, music – why not the planet? Hopefully we can help start some conversations and make people just do something, rather than nothing, when it comes to the climate crisis.”

“Chattin’ Sh*t To Save The Planet” with Virgin Media O2 is available here.