ActNowFilm: Amplifying youth voices on climate

Posted in: COP26, Energy and environmental policy

Amy Thompson is Head of Policy Programmes and Communications at the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR). Katie Parker is Project Manager in the Centre for Climate Repair at the University of Cambridge. Together, with student volunteers and colleagues, they have produced ActNowFilm.

About a year ago, the COP26 Universities Network put out a call asking for volunteers to help organise Climate Exp0 – the official pre-COP academic conference held in May this year. In our planning we knew we wanted to have three audiences presenting at the conference – academics, policymakers and students. But we didn’t know how students would like to be involved. So we ran a survey, via the COP26 Universities Network, and received an overwhelming response. Overall, more than 700 UK students expressed an interest in contributing.

We knew that involving young people was essential, and we wanted to find real and impactful ways for all these youth voices to be heard. We achieved this at Climate Exp0 through various strands – such as volunteer opportunities, surveys, and student-led sessions - but we wanted to do more. We wanted to take this energy, this drive, and this passion beyond May and into COP26; we wanted to amplify the wishes and views of young people and bring it to the attention of our leaders, climate negotiators, and the COP26 Presidency.

Building on our work for Climate Exp0, we knew we wanted to create an opportunity for young people that was more global, and easily accessible, and to enable them to have their voices heard in meaningful and genuine ways. The opportunity had to be open to all – as everyone’s voice matters – and we needed a simple way for people to take part.

Together with colleagues Jen Hayes and Amy Munro-Faure from Cambridge Zero, Sophie O’Brien from the IPR, and with input from the Cabinet Office and the COP26 Universities Network, we designed the ActNowFilm project, where young people - aged 16-30 - were asked to submit a video of them talking about - or showing how - climate change was impacting them. We asked them to share their direct experiences of climate change; what they were doing about it; what pledges they wanted to make; and what messages they wanted to deliver to COP.

We recruited an international team of young people to work alongside us on the project. Around 30 young volunteers were involved in project management, communication, filming, directing, editing, promotion, media work, and music composition. We also worked with a number of international youth organisations and the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate (GAUC), who were instrumental in helping us to reach out and tell young people about this project and how to get involved.

To get involved, young people were asked to submit their films between June and September this year. We encouraged their films to be shot on mobile phones and welcomed submissions via a variety of social media channels. Over 140 clips from 35 countries were received. And each submission was registered and watched by our team, then categorised and transcribed. Our approach to producing the film goes against any filmmaking best practice – we didn’t plan what the film would say, or what the key messages were, or how many people would feature – because this film is young people speaking about their experiences. Rather than constructing a story, we wanted to hear what young people had to say, in their own words.

Working with Octopus Films - a sustainably run film production company – the film was finalised, and the voices of young people have been brought to life. Along the way, we were delighted, with the help of GAUC, to share the trailer for ActNowFilm at New York Climate Week, UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), and the Voice Track of GAUC Climate x Summit. The film also showcased in the Green Zone at COP26 on 11 November 2021.

Everyone involved in ActNowFilm has shown immense talent, passion and courage, resulting in a brilliant, important film. We must continue to amplify youth voices on climate and share their views with the climate leaders and senior decision-makers today – for now, and for future generations.

Watch ActNowFilm

All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of the IPR, nor of the University of Bath. Learn more about ActNowFilm.

Posted in: COP26, Energy and environmental policy


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