Young Arabs increasingly willing to 'boycott brands that damage environment'

Arab Youth Survey 2021 findings show close to half believe governments should do more to address climate change

More than half of young Arabs — 56 per cent — are concerned about climate change, a survey shows.

The same number said they would boycott a brand if it was operating in a way that damaged the environment.

The findings are the latest results of the Arab Youth Survey 2021, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,400 people aged 18-24 and released to coincide with the Cop26 in Glasgow.

Authors said the region’s young people are now taking a more critical look at look at whether governments and businesses act responsibly. Nearly two thirds — 63 per cent — of young people in the Gulf said they are willing to boycott a brand that does not respect the environment. The figure was 56 per cent in North Africa and 51 per cent in the Levant.

Climate campaigners have named and shamed some of the worst environmental polluters. The fashion industry alone accounts for about 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, with a fast fashion culture leading to high waste and increased factory output.

And each year, climate campaigners rank and name the worst multinationals for plastic waste, with companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestle most commonly in the crosshairs.

The Arab Youth Survey's author, Dubai-based communications agency Asda’a BCW, said attitudes have shifted significantly in the past 13 years.

“In 2008, during the inaugural Arab Youth Survey, just 11 per cent of youths surveyed felt climate change and the environment were the biggest challenges facing the world”, said Sunil John, founder of Asda'a BCW.

“Fast forward 13 years, and climate change dominates the youth agenda, with 56 per cent saying they are concerned by the issues. This is an eye-opener for governments and private enterprises in the region on the urgent need to embrace positive climate action.”

What will halt climate change - technology or human behaviour?

Polling found there was a significant divide between whether people thought most climate problems could be solved by technology, or whether their lives would have to change to cut emissions.

In Kuwait and the UAE, 75 per cent and 71 per cent of people respectively felt climate change would be "mainly addressed" by technology.

In contrast, just 31 and 38 per cent in Algeria and Morocco believed technology would be the main driver.

Climate change experts warn both will be necessary to avoid unsustainable temperature rises. Under present targets, the world will warm by 2.7C by 2100, which the UN says would result in "climate catastrophe".

For example, meat accounts for nearly 60 per cent of all greenhouse gases from food production. The UK Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, recommended that people should consume 20 per cent less meat and dairy by 2030, and 35 per cent less by 2050.

Arab governments pressed to do more

Furthermore, 43 per cent of respondents felt Arab governments should be doing more than other countries to address climate change, and therefore take a leading position on the world stage to address the important issues.

Thirty-seven per cent think their government has the same responsibility as others globally, and only 20 per cent said their government should be doing less than others.

“The message is clear, Arab youth expect their governments to take a lead in addressing climate change and global warming, and 50 per cent believe their governments can address this challenge,” the survey's authors said.

An overwhelming majority of 79 per cent of young people in the GCC strongly feel their government is capable of driving effective climate change mitigation measures, while in North Africa, 43 per cent feel their governments will be capable of dealing with climate change issues. However, only 26 per cent of those surveyed in the Levant region believe their government is up to the task of dealing with climate change, showing wide disparities in the region.

In the GCC, 44 per cent of respondents said Arab nations should be doing more than other nations. In North Africa, 39 per cent expect strong leadership action, compared with 45 per cent in the Levant.

Arab Youth Survey 2021 — in pictures

Updated: November 2nd 2021, 2:01 PM