British Council : Inspiring Young Minds

Climate change is the most pressing problem of my generation. Political will, as well as practical changes towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change has to come from the electorate, social entrepreneurs, young policy makers and social workers.

Unfortunately the effects of climate change are not clearly evident or easily traceable. For the first time in our history, the very efficient but short sighted free-market framework is not going to solve the problem. Scarcity has moved from human capital to natural resources, and the Economy we live does not reflect this fundamental change.

The British Council has taken concrete steps to catalyse the mass mobilisation the world needs in order to act against Climate change. With its youth focus, presence in 107 countries and understanding of national cultures the British Council is ideally placed to help create the atmosphere and new ideas the world needs.

I have been a British Council Climate Champion for more than 3 years now and I doubt I can do the experience justice in words. Every programme I have participated in has been efficiently run, very focussed, with measurable outcomes. Perhaps most importantly they are inspiring. The concept of bringing together people form all around the world with different spheres of focus all related closely with climate change and allowing them to interact in an academic atmosphere very conducive to thought and idea exchange has sparked many collaborations and has lead to the wide transfer of many good ideas.

A lot of innovative ideas and solutions to Climate Change must come form the bottom up. Top down solutions have rarely caused a massive positive change. It is the innovation, elegant, mutable , evolutionary nature of the market that tends to throw up the best ideas. We have seen over and over how a small project run by a few passionate individuals has changed things in the words of Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

By focussing on identifying and helping to trouble-shoot grassroots projects started by young people The British Council are causing social change in one of the most important ways possible.

By offering the contacts and the expertise to help grow small projects, the British Council helps ideas become reality. A year ago I decided it would be very interesting to travel across India going from village to village collecting stories of people whose lives had been changed by climate change. The British Council connected me up with a local NGO in Kolkata which became my first case study. It was from this starting point that I could produce a report that Greenpeace incorporated in a paper they prepared for the Prime Minister.

However the British Council’s work doesn’t stop there. For the large scale mobilisation of entrepreneurs to occur, and for the market to throw up the ingenious solutions that have come to define human existence over the last few centuries, we need to subtly change market incentives so that new environmental ideas are financially viable.

To this end the British Council has begun to catalyse youth to move towards considering policy solution to climate change. This is an important move as without the correct incentives the situation will continue as it is, with organisations only interacting with climate change as part of their CSR programmes with negligible effects.

I was with the British Council in Copenhagen, where I worked with the UNFCCC Youth constituency. A group of over 30 of us from countries all over the world learnt first hand how negotiations happen and what the latest debate was about. These interactions helped build our policy knowledge, and by actively participating in the Youth Constituency it gave us first hand experience with Climate Change legislation and policy.

I see the British Council as one of the organisations that is actually making a difference on the ground. By working with thousands of climate champions in many countries the British Council is a leader in the field, and a very dynamic and effective force in helping to change attitudes and action to do with climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Post by – Agastya Muthanna ©

BA (Hons.) , MA Candidate
Faculty of Economics
University of Cambridge.

Consultant at the Ministers Office,
Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

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