Youth Climate Summit 2020

Anna Hands, an associate in our network, was invited to give a talk for the Youth Climate Summit in her capacity as Director of PPL PWR (More information can be found at People Power pages). Coordinated by the environmental charity Global Action Plan and a team of dedicated teachers, the Youth Climate Summit was a free, week-long virtual festival (9-13th November 2020) of themed discussions and activities, aimed towards primary and secondary aged children. This official event, took place instead of COP26 that has been postponed till November 2021, hoping to improve engagement and encourage commitment and pledges for our planet. The event provided over 160 free online sessions over the 5 day period, that were informative and important for every and everyone interested in the fight against climate change. The headline read “Time is already running out to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. Unlike world leaders, young people are refusing to let it drop off their agenda”. The logo was submitted from 11-year-old Lucy from Newcastle and shows brilliantly the inclusivity of the event. With “aims to empower students and teachers to become more ambitious with their school commitments in tackling the climate emergency”, the event took the opportunity to get young people thinking and acting at a time when the World Leaders should have been.

The breakdown of the day themes of the Youth Climate Summit was as follows:

  • Monday 9th November: Nature, Oceans & Water
  • Tuesday 10th November: Travel, Pollution & Waste
  • Wednesday 11th November: Food, Farming & Forests
  • Thursday 12th November: Fashion & Consumption
  • Friday 13th November: A Sustainable Future followed by the Closing Summit
  • The event also maintained an understanding of the difficulties people feel when faced with the problems of the world, starting the week off with ‘Anxiety to Action’ with Force of Nature. This brilliant talk by Clover Hogen, Director of Force of Nature, delved into the emotional responses to existential problems such climate change, offering a very interesting and helpful perspective on this and how to deal with what she mentions as ‘eco-phobia’. As well these useful talks given from a host of experts, the event also lead inspiring activities for primary and secondary school kids to engage with directly, such as ‘Design your school grounds for the future’ with Landscape for the Future and ‘Create a vision of your clean air school’ with Global Action Plan, some with downloadable lesson plans for use within school live, and thereafter. Many of the talks were provided by some big companies equally dedicated to the cause and offering some useful insight into how climate change effects how things are run, such as Anglican Water. Many charities and groups also came forward to support the encouragement of ecological education and engagement, these include the Marine Conservation Society, Greenpeace and the Environment Change Institute of Oxford University.

    Everything mentioned represents just a handful of the many educational, interesting and vital points and topics that encouraged the young generation to fully engage with and understand the significance of climate change.

    This amazing week provided a perfect platform for young activists to develop their own voice and perspective, and is now all available to watch with the recorded events uploaded to YouTube:

  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 3
  • Day 4
  • Day 5
  • In line with Friday 13th’s theme of a ‘Sustainable Future’, Anna Hands, Director of People Power Social Club (link), and an associate in the Cooke Associates network, gave a talk at 12.40pm titled ‘Ingredients to make a Change’, providing her insights and experiences with championing sustainable change within an organisation. A report is given below.

    Introduction from Youth Climate Summit event page:

    Evidence, persistence and empathy – three important ingredients for changing people’s minds and behaviour to build a greener, more sustainable future. Anna will share lessons learned from championing sustainability throughout her career, from her work as student Green Champion in her lab while studying for her PhD in Neuroscience at University College London to promoting sustainable innovation as a Director of PPL PWR. Organisation introduction: PPL PWR is a group of volunteers, including students, engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs, celebrating sustainable innovation, predominantly through interactive workshops at festivals, in schools and in communities. Whether virtually or in person, the collective aims to empower and inspire people to use sustainable technologies and create their own solutions to problems in their communities. At a PPL PWR event, you might find Anna creating light using the heat in her hands or discussing solar energy over a cup of tea made from a dissected solar thermal panel. Personal biography: Anna is a research scientist just finishing a PhD in Neuroscience at University College London, helping to develop a new therapy to restore muscle function in people who are paralysed. In Spring 2020, Anna worked in the policy team at the Academy of Medical Sciences, helping to shape science policy on topics ranging from the use of health data to healthy ageing. In her spare time, Anna promotes sustainability as a Director and Digital & Communications Lead at the not-for-profit public engagement organisation, PPL PWR.


    A core point in Anna Hands’ talk was that anyone can fight climate change, from any background and in every different school or work place. She advocates the importance of the ‘principles of sustainability to underline everything we do in society’. This is easier said than done and, as crucially noted by Anna, ‘humans don’t like change’. What is needed to be a successful champion of sustainability is ‘evidence, persistence and empathy.’ Using her experience from her area of work within the life science industry, Anna describes a perfect model to get from the realisation of a wasteful aspect to the active solution of the problem. She describes the wasteful amount of ice packs that ended up in landfill as a result of the company sending them along with other deliveries having no responsibility for them after they are delivered. From here Anna found a company collecting and recycling ice packs and together with colleagues collected 22kgs worth of ice packs to give to this recycling company. Unfortunately, said company had stopped this service due to the large volumes they had received, but that didn’t stop Anna. She then went on to find a freecycling site where she could distribute the ice packs for useful causes, such as to martial art classes. This was a great example of just one small way we can culminate to bigger changes in the way the world runs. She added that another and more powerful change would be to at the source of the problem; to make the producers responsible for their plastic production or find ways to recycle/reuse things, which often needs government involvement. Anna encourages everyone to take this initiative wherever they can, at school or in the workplace.

    Anna Hands also explains the four types of people you tend to get in regards to sustainable activism: innovators, champions, those receptive and those resistant to the change. With this in mind, Anna explains the process of creating a successful change scheme using her example with ice packs. One starts with the evidence that there is a problem that innovators develop a solution to, with which innovators and champions must then lead by example and find evidence that the solution works. From here one needs to engage and identify barriers and overcome these barriers to reach the receptive, and finally think about incentives and disincentives (usually aided by governments or councils) in order to reach the resistant. These aspects of the process respectively each require evidence, persistence and empathy.

    Anna also goes on to outline the importance and variations of empathy. She explains that an unwillingness to do something tended to be due to busyness rather than not having the desire to do it, realised from her colleagues during her experience. It is then that Anna believes we should all show by example to encourage others to also give their time and effort to the cause. This is where empathy comes into play, and the difference between cognitive (perspective through thought) and emotional empathy (feeling the same) is important to understand. Overall Anna encourages everyone to practice empathy, in order to apply it in real life, through reading, attempting an emotion inventory and by empathising in conversations through active listening and sharing of experiences. All of which will help you to understand the importance of empathy rather than anger, when dealing with these sometimes very difficult existential situations.

    Anna Hands hopes that people, younger or older, can apply all of these problem-solving techniques and understandings of human emotion to problems seen in the real world. All with the united hope and goal of sustainable change for our planet.

    Written by Esther Tun