BY Georgia Griffiths

With a federal election looming, climate change has emerged as a hot topic issue. 

While politicians might be dragging their feet, a lot of young people recognise that climate change will have a huge impact on Australia in our lifetime and beyond. A fortnight ago we saw a huge climate action moment, inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, where it's estimated over a million students skipped school to protest inaction on climate change.

While these kind of protests are incredibly important, it's also essential that young people get out and vote for climate change action. We're statistically less likely to be enrolled to vote or to show up on the day than older generations, despite political decisions having the potential to affect us for a longer time. Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's have teamed up with the Australian Young Climate Coalition (AYCC) to help young voters check their enrolment and take a stance against inaction on climate change. 

Ben & Jerry's spokesperson Kent spoke to me about why it's so important for all of us to vote, and what we can do otherwise to help reduce the impacts of climate change.

This is not the first time that Ben & Jerry's has supported a social cause. Why does the company see it as important to get involved in this sort of stuff?

Ben & Jerry's has a 40-year history on taking a stand on these types of social and environmental justice issues. It's a big part of who we are as a company. Depending on who you ask in the company, a lot of people will say that we're actually a social justice company that just happens to sell ice cream. We're taking great pride in helping people to tackle the bigger issues in Australia when it comes to marriage equality or protecting our Great Barrier Reef. These are the types of issues that are really important to us, and so we want our fans and customers to be empowered to get involved as well.

It seems like a lot of people can't see that climate change is actually going to affect everyone. Could you give us a rundown of what the physical impacts of climate change will be in Australia?

It's definitely beyond urgent at this point. You only have to watch the news a few times a week to see that we’ve got damage happening to our Great Barrier Reef, we've got severe droughts happening in our rural areas. And we've got this distressing impact of this extreme weather, whether it's floods in Northern Queensland or whether it's bush fires in Tasmania. There's a lot happening and it's only gonna get worse if we don't get our Australian politicians to actually step up and commit to some of this large scale change that we need.

On a smaller level, how can individuals do in their own lives to help reduce the impact?

It’s important that they do start looking at different options as well. First and foremost at this stage with the federal election coming up, we want everybody, young and old, to make sure that they are enrolled and enrolled correctly for the upcoming federal election. There are a number of protests and movements and organisations that are happening out there at the moment, so get involved with them. And then of course don’t forget those smaller things that we can do, so whether it's catching public transport or just being careful with the energy that you're using. Even reducing your carbon footprint wherever possible. They can all make small impacts as well.

There has been a bit of media attention about the recent rallies and things like that. How do we keep that momentum going?

At this stage I feel that politicians have no choice but to actually start paying attention to what people want, and the Australian public are actually standing up and saying what we want action on. For us at Ben & Jerry's, we'll continue to support the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and we have a long-term partnership with in Australia as well.

We really want to make sure that climate action policies are a key issue in the upcoming federal election, and that people will have this as their number one consideration when they cast their vote. We're gonna get our Ben & Jerry's Scoop Stores involved with this in the near future, so there'll be more news on that coming up soon. But yeah, we'll do our bit to walk the talk and we'll encourage our fans and customers to do their bit as well.

Young people are statistically less likely to be enrolled to vote, and also less likely to show up on the day than the national average. Why should we care about voting?

Yeah, those numbers are a little scary. In the last federal election about a quarter of a million of young Aussies, so that’s 18 to 24 year olds, weren't enrolled or didn't vote in that federal election. When we consider that the most marginal seat was only won by 32 votes, it really means that every vote does count and it really means that young Aussies can hold the power. All these things that we're talking about in terms of these extreme weather conditions, it's impacting their future and the future of their children. They really need to step up and do what they can to protect their future.

What about after the election, regardless of who wins? We've got four years with whoever it is. Where can we go from there on combating climate change?

Whoever comes into power, we will continue to lobby them as best we can to make sure that they have the best climate action policy in place. We'll continue to lobby whichever government gets into power, and we'll be including our Scoop stores and our fans and customers in some way. When we get there we'll definitely create a plan and have some sort of action so that we can continue to push this. It will be an ongoing battle, but we're in it for the long haul.

Any final comments?

Just thanks to all the universities, especially UNSW for all the support that you guys showed us when we were there with AYCC last month. The students were really interested and it was really encouraging and promising to see such an interest in this cause. Hopefully they'll step up on the day and cast a vote for climate change!

You can find more information on Ben & Jerry's campaign with AYCC here. Image credit Ben & Jerry's.

To check if you are enrolled to vote head over this site. You can enrol to vote here.

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