Lower election age amid environmental crisis

A new report has said that the government should respond to environmental breakdown and help younger and future generations realise a more sustainable, just and prepared world.

Inheriting the earth?, published by the IPPR think tank, is the second in a series of five short discussion papers. It argues that as well as being economically worse off than their parents, the current younger generation is also facing a future of unprecedented environmental breakdown.

While younger and future generations will disproportionately bear the burden of having to rapidly transform economic systems in order to decelerate environmental breakdown while withstanding its increasingly destabilising consequences, the report highlights examples of young people already leading the discussion on the threats of environmental breakdown and the need for action.

But, beyond recognising their efforts, IPPR argues that such leadership should be better recognised, including through formal representation of the interests of younger and future generations in decision-making systems.

It suggests the UK government adopt a Future Generations Act that protects the interests of future generations and their right to a stable environment throughout policymaking. Part of this is giving the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, with the government encouraged to provide greater educational materials to inform democratic decisions in general, and environmental breakdown in particular, linking to wider democratic reform.

Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, responded: “Our young people are a force to be reckoned with, who are taking to the street, leading the climate strikes and using their voices to influence positive change. Yet instead of being supported and valued, young people continue to have their voices ignored by this government.

“At the next election, Labour will set out a bold policy agenda that will radically change young people’s lives, including tackling the climate crisis, scrapping tuition fees, and extending the vote to 16-year-olds.”