World Consumer Rights Day: Empowering the Next Generation in the future of clean energy
'We need to put youth at the heart of energy solutions', was the call to action we heard from Asma Rouabhia, the Global Focal Point SDG 7 Youth Constituency, on the first day of our Clean Energy Conference. 'Young consumers can offer new insights and ideas on what young populations need - as well as being a powerful force to influence their families and communities to adopt clean energy solutions'.
The global youth population is expected to peak at 1.4 billion by 2065. Young consumers have an important role to play in the transition to clean energy. They can be powerful advocates for change - calling for action from governments, businesses and decision-makers. And the lifestyle choices they make each day are crucial in bringing us closer to net zero.
However, young people can face specific barriers to consumer empowerment. Many young consumers are being held back by a lack of affordable clean energy options - a factor exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis. We're supporting efforts to give young advocates a 'real seat at the table' in decision-making, action and knowledge-sharing around the energy transition - so that their determination, unique perspectives and innovative solutions are not overlooked.
In the run-up to World Consumer Rights Day, we spoke to two members of our Next Generation Leaders Network - who shared perspectives from Lebanon and India on how we can engage and empower young consumers in energy systems of the future.
Fatima Abou Abbas
Fatima is an Environmental Engineer with a Master’s degree in Biochemistry from Lebanese University and has been an active member of Consumers Lebanon since 2017, where she is in charge of the Environmental Department of the Consumer Association. Fatima’s consumer advocacy interests are predominantly focused on sustainable consumption and ensuring an overall healthy environment.
Young people shouldn't be pushed to the sidelines in clean energy transitions
Young people have the potential to influence the energy transition in a variety of ways, through participating in local and global decision-making processes and also by providing a skilled workforce to support the growth of value chains for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean mobility.
Youth employment opportunities for a clean energy future
The lack of employment opportunities for young people is one of emerging nations' most urgent problems. Youth can benefit from improved skill development and decent employment prospects in the clean transportation and sustainable energy industries. To address this, the corporate sector and educational institutions should work more closely together to improve the quality and accessibility of training while also pursuing initiatives to promote business and technical skills and create jobs geared towards young people.
Young people are key stakeholders
To overcome political resistance and create the incentives required for the transition, we also need to lay the groundwork for better governance in the energy sector and promote multi-level energy and climate conversation among stakeholders. In particular, involving young people in decision-making can advance shared ownership of transition initiatives and secure political support for their implementation.
Young people have the power to drive change
Everyone must be involved in the shift to renewable energy, and not just be passive onlookers.
We all have power in the market as consumers. We all consume energy services; thus we have the ability to take action to speed up the switch to clean energy if we are supported to do so.
The Chair on Consumer Law and Practice (CLAP)
Akshay is a law graduate with an LL.M. from Karnataka State Law University, Hubballi. Akshay is currently working at the National Law School of India, where he particularly focuses on consumer law and practice. Akshay has been involved in drafting a variety of policies, edited a number of consumer law journals and has worked on various projects sponsored by the Government of India & Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Government of Karnataka & Ministry of Law and Justice.
Youth are the protagonists of tomorrow and key to achieving the energy transition
India is currently the fifth most polluted country in the world. The rapid growth in fossil energy consumption in India has made it the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world after China and the United States. Indian communities are particularly at risk from the effects of climate change due to changes in monsoon season and the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
To meet these challenges, a just energy transition is key – but it must be collaborative and inclusive - providing opportunities for meaningful participation and effective representation from all stakeholders, and that includes young people.
Consumer Protection and the Energy Transition in India
India is a signatory of the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection – and is striving hard to protect energy consumers, today and in the future. The 2001 Energy Conservation Act provides a framework for regulating energy consumption and promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation, and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency sets standards for energy consumption in all spheres including appliances, vehicles, industrial and commercial establishments and buildings. Programmes for efficient energy use have also helped India save about 28 million tonnes of oil-equivalent energy in 2019-20.
Elsewhere, the Consumer Ministry has taken a significant step in developing a framework for the ‘Right to Repair’ - a critical function for the sustainable life of the products such as energy-efficient appliances.
These ambitious steps are pushing India well on its way to a clean energy future. However more needs to be done to help India achieve its potential. The involvement and leadership of young people will play a pivotal role in the achievement of a just and inclusive sustainable energy transition.
Young people are leading India’s energy revolution
The transition to sustainable energy will have strong intergenerational implications. The youth of today care about the future of energy - but face financial, educational and technological barriers to engaging in the transition.
In India, young people are being engaged through a number of initiatives, such as training and jobs through the Solar Energy Training Network and India’s policy for environmental education. Youth-led social innovations are also showing significant potential to help enable decentralised, digitalised and decarbonised energy systems. Youth climate organisations such as Fridays for Future (FFF) India, India Youth Climate Network, Yugma Collective and Let India Breathe are demanding greater climate action, education and justice. Community-based youth movements are establishing strong links with school clubs to spur grassroots mobilisation, including learning about climate change and sustainability. Young climate advocates are also driving change. Take Ridhima Pandey, who at just 11 years old delivered a petition before the court directing the Government to prepare a carbon budget and a national climate recovery plan.
Young people hold the key to change – let's give them a real seat at the table
Widespread societal engagement is a centripetal force for energy transitions that are just, democratic, and sustainable. Youth engagement will bring more transparency, social inclusivity, and empowerment to energy transitions. Their engagement in policy-making will help articulate policy gaps, monitor processes and implement innovative new activities. Young people can also provide the dynamism and creativity needed to implement new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, or web-based training – helping us all become more efficient energy consumers.
We need to bring on board the energy of youth together with policy-makers and business leaders to secure a greener, healthier India.