Youth Living in Auckland: Climate Change Mitigation Efforts and the Factors Affecting their Actions

by Gautami Bhor

Title of thesis/research question: Youth living in Auckland: Climate change mitigation efforts and the factors affecting their actions

Type of thesis (undergraduate/masters/doctoral/postdoctoral): Masters

University affiliation: University of Auckland, New Zealand

Research Duration: 2020-2021


Climate change is an undeniable threat to the global population. Different measures for adaptation and mitigation against climate change impacts are taken worldwide and to varying extents. While climate change mitigation is perhaps most high-profile at a governmental (policymaking) level, individual responsibility for change within their sphere of influence needs more consideration given the impact of collective action and cumulative effects. Further, young individuals’ (ages 16 – 24 years old) climate change perspectives and mitigation actions deserve more attention in aspects of intergenerational climate justice and the fact that governance choices made now will have repercussions for future lives and livelihoods. This thesis examines the approaches of youth in Auckland, New Zealand, towards mitigating climate change impacts at a personal/household level. This study engaged young participants (ages 16-24) to diarise their different consumption patterns over two weeks – behaviours like food consumption, energy use, transportation and water use – and calculate their carbon footprints as a heuristic, reflexive exercise. Through focus groups, the research reveals the strategies used by Auckland youth to reduce their GHG emissions and their priority of what actions need to be taken and by whom. Additionally, this thesis sheds light on the motivations and also the barriers youth face in their pursuit of climate action and considers how any barriers can be overcome by structural changes by the government and corporations. This thesis argues that climate change mitigation action holds great importance at an individual level (especially youth) to reduce negative climate change impacts in the future. It also provokes that youth should be supported by government and corporate action to assist them in climate-friendly lifestyles.

1. What were the most important or surprising findings of your work?

Some interesting findings of my research were:

  • Auckland youth were taking / wanted to take action towards climate change mitigation, but often felt a sense of helplessness due to various factors like the power of decision-making with the large organisations, personal circumstances and eco-anxiety.
  • Youth need support from the government and the big corporations to make sustainable living more accessible for someone in their position (often broke, dependent and studying to build a life in the future). This would include cheaper sustainable products, transport facilities and food choices.
  • Women in particular feel the burden of having to lead the sustainability movement. The female participants in my study mentioned that they were perceived as caretakers due to the traditional upbringing they faced, which resulted in greater pressure on them to care more and lead this movement further, while their male counterparts didn’t have to take as much responsibility for their actions.

2. What did you struggle with during the research and/or writing process, and how did you overcome these issues?

The struggle was real! The research work involved a lot more reading than writing. Writing the thesis was a comparatively smaller and easier part of it. Going through loads of papers, articles, theses to build the literature review was the bigger task at hand. 

Luckily, my supervisors helped me keep track of my articles, helped me skim through them and taught me how to read a paper to get the most of what I wanted from it. I came up with a system to dedicate particular times to particular sections of my thesis and decided to check whether one paper helped multiple sections in the thesis. It worked very well!

3. What are you doing now, and what are your plans for the coming year?

I am currently working as a Sustainability Consultant in Auckland at Proxima Consulting. I intend to pursue this line of action in the upcoming years to learn more about the corporate sustainability systems and create an impact out there.

4. Per the above, did your research impact those plans in any way?

My research certainly helped me understand youth perceptions of climate change mitigation, which drove me to think about what my role is in the ecosystem. It helped me learn the importance of having those real time conversations with people about issues like climate change, which helps me in my work on a regular basis.

5. Do you have any advice for people who are undertaking this type of research?

Do not be afraid to ask the controversial questions. Talk to people along with putting your head into books, papers and computers. And simply keep in mind, that every piece of reading, every extension you take, is ultimately worth it!

Author Bio: Gautami is a passionate sustainability advocate, keen to create a difference in this world. She completed her Master of Science in Environmental Management from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from India, she pursued IT in the beginning but chose to explore environmental studies to create a difference. She pursued her research to understand what youth like her felt about climate change and what they believe they can do to reduce their negative impacts.Along with a passion for sustainability, she also loves food, likes hiking, playing the guitar and spending time with her friends!

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