Climate Crisis and Cost-of-Living: Why young people should care about the General Election

Posted in: Climate change, Democracy and voter preference, IPR internship, UK politics, Young people

Thea Wright is a BSc Politics and International Relations student at the University of Bath, interning at the IPR as part of the course's placement year. Prior to working at the IPR, she spent seven months interning at Development Initiatives, an organisation using data-driven evidence and analysis to end poverty. Her role there as Policy and Engagement Assistant saw her work with partners to organise events, assist in the writing and publishing of reports and engage stakeholders.

The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of our democratic society. 2024 has, already, been a year of elections, with many mayoral and local elections taking place across the UK. Now, as a General Election (GE) looms, the country has once again been swept up in the flurry of debates, canvassing and media coverage of MPs as we prepare to march to the polls (or the post box). However, young people are consistently the least likely to cast their ballot. With the threat of climate change and the rising cost of living, it is perhaps more important than ever that the voices of young people are heard – what better opportunity than a GE to ensure that happens?


As a student of Politics and International Relations, I am used to being more engaged with politics than the majority of my peers. While young people are all too quick to like a meme of Boris Johnson on a zipline or Rishi Sunak attempting to dribble a football, they are much less quick to read a manifesto, register to vote, or, ultimately, head to the polls. A British Election Study figures show that just over 50% of young people (18-34) turned out to vote in the previous GE in 2019, compared to over 80% of those aged 75 and over.  However, for as long as young people do not vote, politicians will prioritise policies that attract older voters and overlook the demands of the younger generation – further cementing an UK gerontocracy. Only through casting our ballot and demanding a say will young people have their voices heard. It is, in the end, our future more than anyone else’s.



The past five years have been marked by record temperatures, flash flooding and water shortages. The past two years have been the hottest the UK has ever experienced, with some areas experiencing upwards of 40°C. The UK Government estimates that nearly 2300 people died as a consequence of extreme heat last year, and the British Medical Journal suggests that figure could rise to an average of 10,000 deaths a year by 2050.

With this ever-growing threat, one would expect the climate crisis to be at the top of the political agenda, and yet, during their time in Government, the Conservatives have eroded existing policies intended to protect the climate and given the green light to more oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. This election therefore marks a chance for change, to ensure that Parties prioritise climate sustainable policies to save both our planet and our future.

Over 400 scientists have signed an open letter to party leaders calling for more ambitious climate policies, to address both the causes and the consequences of climate change. But, in a democracy such as ours, where political parties fight for the votes of the people, the power of public opinion cannot be overlooked. Young people are known to be the most concerned about the future of the planet. Nearly 70% of 1000 surveyed young people aged 16-25 stated that they were extremely or very worried about the climate crisis, and evidence from the US indicates that young people make up the greatest share of ‘climate voters’. Therefore, by coming out in force to vote in this GE in a manner which supports the most climate progressive parties, a clear message will be sent straight to Westminster that if politicians want to win the people’s votes they need to prioritise the climate in years to come.

Cost of Living

Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK has long been gripped in a cost of living crisis marked by stagnant wages and rising living costs. Unsurprisingly, young people have felt the consequence of these conditions, struggling to get on the property ladder, heat the homes, feed themselves and their families, and find jobs. When asked, over 44% of 18-24 year olds skill living at home stated that they could not afford to move out as they were needed by their families to help pay household bills, and a further two-thirds remarked that they had lowered their career expectations due to the their lack of faith in the economy and their own mental health.

Those in education are also feeling the impacts of the crisis, financial support for students, such as maintenance loans, are not sufficient to cover the cost of soaring rent, let alone food and education supplies. This means that some students simply cannot afford to continue their education, leading to dropping out and, therefore, even less confidence in their career prospects.

This has led to the crippling realisation for many young people – as many as two-thirds – that they don’t think that they will ever be financially secure, with many saying they can only plan short-term. Yet, even Parliament itself realises that “young people are not sufficiently included in the development of policies which affect them”.  Change will not occur by sitting idle. For young people’s voices to be heard, they need to be spoken. Only in coming out in force at the polls, advocating for policies that ensure financial security and prosperity for young people, will politicians be motivated to listen. It is no secret that the UK has become a gerontocracy; while not necessarily ruled by elders, it is motivated almost exclusively by their will when drafting legislation. To change the tides, young people must vote in this election, cementing their voice as one which is meaningful and creating greater democratic representation and legitimacy for the introduction of policies which benefit the younger generations.



According to the YMCA, as many as 86% of young people (aged 25 and under) intend to vote at the, fast approaching, GE. If such estimates come to fruition, there may yet be hope for the futures of young people across the UK. However, this heavily depends on one key outcome: that young people turnout to the polls on Thursday 4th July.

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday 18th June, and deadline for postal votes the following day. So, whether you're on holiday, a student, or simply too busy on the day, there is no excuse not to vote. The democratic rights of young people are no less than their elder peers. Only through exercising those rights can we ensure that young people are listened to, and included, in creating a better future for all generations present and future.


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.

Posted in: Climate change, Democracy and voter preference, IPR internship, UK politics, Young people


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