The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Yearbook 2022 Preview: Can We Help Our Children Save The Planet?

Gary Pope, CEO of KI and Children’s Ambassador for Products of Change wrote this article for the Chidren's Media Yearbook 2022.

We’re in trouble. All of us. In fact, unless we halve our carbon emissions by 2025, irreparable damage will be done. Actually, it’s not all of us, is it? It’s just those of us that will be around in 50 years time. Like, well, our children and our grandchildren.

On April 4th this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released. And in it a glimmer, a slither, of hope that we might just be able to get all of this climate change back in its box and, if we hit some pretty robust targets by 2030, we could prevent a global climate increase of  1.5°C, and ensure at least some semblance of a future for our planet. But radical action is needed and it is needed from today. Now. Not tomorrow. Now. Or as they say in South Africa, NOW NOW.

The report makes it very clear that by doing the right thing – in fact the only thing – and adapting our lifestyles and behaviours, then we can make happen a 40–70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and that might just be enough to save the future. Maybe.

Thing is, limiting warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) needs greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030. Simultaneously, methane would also need to be reduced by about 30%. Reality is that this is not going to happen. We will exceed this temperature threshold. BUT we might just be able to get it back down again by the end of the century… if we get our acts together.

So what am I writing about this in the Children’s Media Yearbook for? I wear two hats. One is as CEO of KI. That’s my day job. But it’s my side hustle that I have suddenly realised is the most important one. I am the Children’s Ambassador for Products of Change and my role is to act as an advocate for children through the work the group does. Right now, children need a bit of advocacy. One of the many wonderful things about our industry is that we genuinely care about the people we make stuff for. And I am asking you to really double down on that care.

In our game we don’t think of ourselves as particularly polluting, do we? Our computers might use a bit of electricity and we might have to catch a flight to Kidscreen or MIP, but we don’t sit in huge factories chuffing out all manner of planet choking toxicity, do we? No, we don’t. But our model very often needs consumer products to make it work. And as an industry, consumer products uses a vast amount of energy and emits mind boggling quantities of carbon… supply chain, manufacturing, shipping and delivery. You get the idea. Sure, there is some fantastic work being done by LEGO and Mattel, to name just two, but how many people realistically get their consumer products programme away with the really big boys, who have their sustainability action plans in place and are leading the way? No, most of us never see our product in the showroom of a behemoth with strong and necessary corporate governance. But the world is changing and as the saying goes, we need to be the change we want to see. There are many, many companies out there that are being the change. Amazing firms are designing, manufacturing and delivering great products that families love without upsetting Mother Nature. So the first thing I am asking you to do, as you think about how your next big hit comes to market, is to consider choosing partners that are being the change the planet needs and that  children deserve. 

But it is in the characters we develop and in the stories that we tell where even more value can be found. Between the ages of 5 and 7, that wonderful, very real period of childhood, life-long behaviours are formed. We are of course, educators as well as storytellers. 

Children know that there’s a problem with the planet but they don’t know what it really means to make the changes that are necessary. 41% of children across the UK and US do not think that the efforts they make can make a difference to climate change, but they still want to do something about it. We have a responsibility to give that ambition hope. They need to know that they can make a difference. 93% of UK and US children are doing something every day to take action against climate change. We have the opportunity to amplify this action. 

Children look to the stories that we create to understand the world around them. They identify with characters and are inspired by them. They model their behaviour on them and they pretend to be them with their friends as they play. And if play is the work of the child, then this is important work to be doing. 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer us all a framework on which to build the future for our children. There are 17 of them and they are designed to enable all of us to do something. The fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is: Quality Education. The work we do educates and the media at our disposal, not just broadcast, YouTube and Netflix, but TikTok and whatever is materialising in the Metaverse, all point to the growing demand on content to have some educational value. But I don’t mean letters and numbers. It’s attitudes and behaviours that we can help develop too. Everything a child consumes contributes to their world view. We have a responsibility to contribute everything we can to support the delivery of SDG 4. The UN’s stated aim for this goal is that every child has the opportunity to have free primary and secondary education by 2030. It’s baffling to me that this is even a goal. A billionaire can offer the GDP of a nation to purchase a social media plaything and yet there are, and will remain, kids that can’t read and write. Most of our kids can read and write and so in the spirit of SDG 4, what can we do through the tools of our trade to give our kids Quality Education and help them do their bit to save the planet? 

The work that Products of Change does as a membership organisation is designed to support, encourage and perpetuate companies and brands in meeting their sustainability goals through education that informs change. We are here to help you ensure that what you create for children positively impacts their future. Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Why not become a member of Products of Change and use the tools we’ve built for you there, to help focus energy on saving this beautiful blue planet?

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