Cop26: Young people will give 'impetus' to 'rewrite the story' on climate change says Sir David Attenborough

Protecting the futures of our young people needs to be the motivation needed to transform the “tragedy” of the climate crisis into “triumph,” Sir David Attenborough has told COP26.

The environmentalist called on people to approach the challenge of rising temperatures “not [in] fear, but hope” as the world’s most powerful leaders gathered in Glasgow, trying to reaffirm commitments to keep global warming below 1.5c.

Meanwhile, social housing tenants across the north of England have called on associations to work with them on the green transition and new technology needed in homes to ensure fairness.

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Broadcaster Sir David told the opening ceremony of the UN climate conference that humanity is “already in trouble” with climate change, and that those who historically have caused fewest of the problems are set to pay the greatest price. However, younger generations will provide the “impetus” to “rewrite the story” and make change for the better.

Sir David Attenborough speaking during the opening ceremony for the Cop26 summit at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.Sir David Attenborough speaking during the opening ceremony for the Cop26 summit at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.
Sir David Attenborough speaking during the opening ceremony for the Cop26 summit at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.

“Is this how our story is due to end – a tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”

He added: “Perhaps the fact that the people affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generations but young people alive today, perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story, to turn this tragedy into a triumph.”

He added that “we are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on earth” and that we “now understand the problem” of how to put climate change into reverse.

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Sir David’s emphasis on the importance of young people when it comes to tackling the climate was reiterated by the Prime Minister who said that future generations will “not forgive us” and will “judge with bitterness” if the planet is not saved.

“The children who will judge us are children not yet born, and their children,” Mr Johnson told the dozens of world leaders and hundreds of delegates gathered in Scotland.

“We are now coming centre stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity and we must not fluff our lines or miss our cue.

“Because if we fail, they will not forgive us – they will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn.

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“They will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today and they will be right.

COP26 will not and cannot be the end of the story on climate change.”

About 120 heads of state and government are attending the world leaders’ summit at the start of the COP26 talks, where countries are under pressure to increase action in the next decade to tackle dangerous warming.

There is also pressure on developed countries to deliver a long-promised 100 billion dollars a year – and more – in climate finance to help poorer nations develop cleanly and deal with the already inevitable impacts of a warming planet.

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People are being urged to make small changes to their everyday lifestyles in order to reduce emissions, such as driving less or eating less meat, however, some changes that could become more common in the years to come are likely to be more expensive and potentially more disruptive to people’s lives and homes.

Installing a heat pump, retrofitting other insulations or switching to an electric car are likely to become increasingly popular options.

Social housing tenants from across the north of England have taken part in the first Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury, calling on housing associations to take into account the emergency response needed to the climate crisis, but also to work with tenants and contractors to ensure that any work carried out to homes is of the highest standard and completed with good communication and collaboration with tenants in mind,

Homes account for around a quarter of carbon emissions across the north, with Yorkshire homes contributing around 24 per cent of the region’s overall output.

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Tracy Harrison, chief executive of Northern Housing Consortium said: “Tackling climate change will require big changes to homes and neighbourhoods - through the Jury process, social housing tenants have given clear guidance on what they want to see happen in what are, after all, their homes and neighbourhoods.”