The Youth Lab


This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Last week saw the release of the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of climate science ever conducted. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its synthesis report, which summarises the state of knowledge on climate breakdown, explaining the ways the planet is changing at speed and how we can avert irreversible and catastrophic damage. This week’s 52INSIGHTS addresses the significant implications of this moment, exploring some of the latest youth responses and new EU greenwashing directive.


A brief summary of the key messages from last week (note: the report is the outcome of an 8 year assessment cycle and warrants more explanation than what is offered here):

  • We are living in a humanity-defining moment. Our window to avoid catastrophe is closing: The report is almost certain to be the last assessment of its kind while the world still has a chance of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (the threshold beyond which our damage will rapidly become irreversible) if we act immediately. The next 6.5 years are critical: “The choices and actions implemented in this decade [by 2030] will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”
  • Current ambitions are not fit for purpose: Climate impacts on people and ecosystems are more widespread and severe than expected, and future risks will escalate rapidly with every fraction of a degree of warming. While it is not too late to avoid the worst of it, there is a gap between current ambitions and what science is telling us. With 1.5°C likely to be exceeded in a matter of years, not decades, it changes everything. It immediately forces big carbon-emitting countries, including Ireland, into asking if their decarbonisation targets are ambitious enough – UN secretary general António Guterres says it warrants bringing 2050 net-zero targets back by a decade. This requires huge attention. Accenture has reported that nearly all companies will miss current Net Zero goals without doubling the rate of C02 emissions reductions.
  • With global cooperation, we can activate the clear solutions laid out: Humans’ predominant role in causing climate breakdown is “unequivocal” and global warming of 1.1°C has spurred changes to the Earth’s climate that are unprecedented in recent human history. This is not just about severe weather impacts, but water, food, health and more. The number one cause of the climate crisis is fossil fuels - we need to rapidly stop burning them. Adaptation measures can effectively build resilience, but increased finance is needed to scale solutions - and also to combat existing irreversible impacts via loss and damage.
  • There are ongoing political challenges - Language specifics are important: Many journalists focused on the political backdrop to the final draft of the report, noting that lobbying led to watered down language appearing in the final draft. One example of this is how a shift in wording was driven by Brazil and Argentina (countries with large beef industries) to water down the recommended statement by scientists “plant-based diets can reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% compared to the average emission-intensive Western diet,” to “balanced, sustainable healthy diets acknowledging nutritional needs.” More here.

Useful report summaries can be found at Carbon Brief and the WRI.


“Children and young people have critical skills, experiences and ideas for safer, more sustainable societies. They are not simply inheritors of our inaction — they are living the consequences today.UNICEF

We know that young people across the world are concerned about climate breakdown and climate justice. It is a growing existential issue that impacts on how they think about their future and their ability to achieve life goals. How is this manifesting in culture and action today?

Getting Creative - Changing The Story: Global youth are voicing out for climate justice and adopting new forms of climate storytelling in many ways. One of TIME Magazine’s women of the year is young climate activist Ayisha Siddiqa. She shares incredible writing from the perspective of her generation, raising youth and marginalised voices into deeper consciousness. Listen to her powerful words here and find more here. There are also some brilliant creatives and storytellers behind the likes of FutureEarth, Force of Nature, Earthrise Studio and many more. Recently, we’ve observed youth bringing more depth into their storytelling, looking to sources of indigenous wisdom and trying to communicate more complex messages around intersectional environmental challenges. Fossil fuel is enemy number one but engaged younger generations recognise this challenge requires thinking more deeply about global structures and systems - everything, everywhere all at once.

Making Movements - #StopWillow: This was the latest mass climate activist movement to take TikTok by storm. Masses mobilised to protest a controversial Alaskan oil drilling project. Since it was approved, the mission to end new fossil fuel infrastructure continues.

Hacking Existing Systems: Climate lawsuits: the latest youth legal action sees activists suing the Swedish government for violating its citizens' human rights with its climate policies. Last year, more than 600 people under the age of 26 signed a document as the basis for the lawsuit.

Youth are leading more boundary-pushing conversations about the future of how we share our planet. In fact, in facing this moment, change shouldn’t seem that radical.


“It’s no secret that climate change discourse is shrouded in obfuscation, disinformation, greenwashing and lies, both outright and of omission.” Aurora Almendral, QZ

As the value of sustainability continues to grow (a 5 year McKinsey study reveals a 1.7% disproportionate growth for products with ESG claims), so too have marketing efforts around it. This has sparked an ongoing learning journey. We explored updated analysis on greenwashing in a recent edition of 52INSIGHTS - read it here. The latest update on this topic comes with a new EU directive hopes to curb it. The proposal addresses the challenge that emerged from the Commission’s analysis, that found that around 53% of environmental claims made by companies contain “vague, misleading or unfounded" information, while 40% are “completely unsubstantiated”. Responses now seek to ensure EU wide methodology so that citizens can make better informed decisions, by providing direction through the lens of independent verification, future commitments, carbon neutral terms, labelling, negative trade offs, evidence and more (read a simple summary here). Those found to be making unsubstantiated claims could face penalties amounting to at least 4% of their annual revenue, however there are others who feel the EU has not yet gone far enough to solve the problem (read here).


“Change takes longer than you think - and then it happens faster than you ever thought possible.” Christiana Figueres

A New Era of Leadership Required: Everyone is required to be an ‘activist’ now to avoid an ‘atlas of human suffering’. These topics bring up big, uncomfortable, necessary questions. Businesses need to support themselves and their employees, but they are also required to venture beyond traditional decision making. Being an effective sustainability leader, to summarise Former Unilever boss Paul Polman, means thinking exponentially (not linearly), not getting complacent, ditching incrementalism, changing mindsets and embracing our interconnected nature. How do we create the conditions to work in these ways? We’ve seen nature given a seat at board tables, Mother Earth being made Patagonia’s sole shareholder… We are even starting to see businesses taking future generations into better account by setting up youth boards or consultations:

"Airfield Estate worked with Thinkhouse to set up and recruit a Youth Board. Our mission is to work together with young people to make Airfield as a sustainable food hub and Dublin a world-leading sustainable food city. We're already getting new ideas and accelerating ambition by putting future generations at the heart of our decision making - and we now have a best practice case study. It would be brilliant to see more organisations do something like this. The campaign brought Airfield to a whole new audience and did way more beyond recruitment in terms of profiling the organisation and engaging new audiences." Claire McEvilly, CEO, Airfield Estate

Real Transformation Means Everything, Everywhere: This is an all hands on deck moment - no individual company can drive the change required on its own. Industries need to come together to make a real collective impact. Most recently it was brilliant to see lawyers coming together to refuse to prosecute peaceful climate protesters - check out Lawyers Are Responsible, the Lawyers Climate Pledge and the fantastic Client Earth which takes legal action to protect all life on earth.

Brands continue to inspire too, with news of Irish Distillers and HEINEKEN Ireland collaborating to pilot a pioneering regenerative agriculture project. Heineken has also announced plans to reach Net Zero 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement and is making new moves to decarbonise its supply chain. Elsewhere, big name competitor retailers have come together in the UK to tackle Scope 3 emissions. Levelling up impact means working together with competition, recognising the importance of a bigger picture: “If we’re going to play our part, then we must put climate at the heart of every single decision.” Prof Peter Thorne.

Our friends at Purpose Disruptors are hosting an Earth Day Ad Summit in London on April 25th with Brian Eno and Jon Alexander (author of Citizens). Thinkhouse Strategy Director, Purpose & Planet, Laura Costello, will be involved in a ‘Changemakers Masterclass’. Check out more information and tickets.

Use Culture & Creativity To Level Up - from Storytelling to Action: Expectations from younger generations are getting higher. Storytelling needs to be supported by meaningful actions. We need to creatively incorporate new ways of thinking and operating to respond to this challenge. For example, in the lead up to Earth Day (April 22nd) the creative team at Thinkhouse is currently working on a GoodLife2030 creative brief from Creatives for Climate, exploring how to help people adopt more sustainable lifestyles by getting them to feel and taste a new good life in 2030 - because: “Socio-cultural changes within transition pathways can offer Gigaton-scale CO2 savings potential at the global level.” IPCC. Project Drawdown also estimates that as individuals we can drive 25-30% of the global emission reductions needed to avoid the worst of climate change (read more).

It’s beneficial for brands to source ideas and new ways of thinking from sources beyond the ‘corporate’ world. Writers like Robin Wall Kimmerer and Rebecca Solnit and initiatives like Stories For Life and People’s Plan for Nature are endlessly inspiring: “What if the austerity is how we live now — and the abundance could be what is to come?” Rebecca Solnit

More IPCC inspired Brand Guidance from Thinkhouse Planet Team is available here.