Demands are growing for the nation’s youth to be given the right to vote in UK elections at 16 so they can influence what happens to their generation as it faces a growing global climate emergency.

A damning new report out today from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warns that teenagers are facing a “toxic inheritance” of environmental crises caused by climate change, and should be given the chance to act.

The call comes on the same day as a dramatic new warning from MPs at Westminster of a looming “food security crisis” because of climate breakdown, which raises the prospect of food imports to the UK being all but halved, ushering in years of food shortages and dramatic cost surges. 

MPs on Westminster’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) warned that the NHS is not prepared for the problems which will follow as a result of environmental damage, which will bring risks to people’s health from a spread of new diseases such as the Zika virus and malaria, along with heat stress as the climate warms.

Both the EAC and the IPPR highlight an urgent need for action ahead of Friday’s #GlobalClimateStrike where millions are expected to take to the streets to protest in cities around the world including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee and Perth.

Teenagers have increasingly been taking their destiny in their own hands after Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg sparked a youth-driven push for action on climate change.  

Ms Thunberg has gained international attention by inspiring protests and school strikes demanding action to avert environmental catastrophe, and her activism has drawn a passionate following of children challenging their elders to take action.

In the UK, one of the demands of the climate strikers is to lower the voting age to 16, in recognition they have the greatest stake in the future.

The report warns that younger and future generations will have to experience impacts on the environment which are partly the result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by older generations and “decisions taken by elites in these generations, most of whom have only a small chance of being alive by 2050”.

To limit environmental breakdown younger generations will have to use far smaller quantities of resources over their lifetimes than older generations.

They will have to build sustainable economic models and cope with issues such as food prices being pushed up by extreme weather hitting production and the emotional toll of dealing with rapid change and damage to society.

Without urgent action by the current generation of political leaders, future generations will not just be economically worse off than their parents, they will face huge challenges from environmental damage and its impact on society.

The report is calling for votes at 16, as is already the case for Holyrood and local elections in Scotland, to give a voice to those who will face the consequences of what older generations are doing to the world and give them a say on their future.

It also calls for a “Future Generations Act” which would provide a formal legal recognition of the right of future generations to live in a world with a stable environment, and make sure policy-making takes that into account.

And it wants to see greater value given to environmental projects which have long-term benefits for future generations in the process of making public investment decisions.

Luke Murphy, Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission, said: “Current and future generations face a toxic inheritance as a consequence of environmental breakdown.

“Political leaders and policymakers must recognise the duty they owe to the next and future generations.

“Crucially, they must act to protect them by giving legal recognition to their rights and by giving them a voice in our political system.”