Climate change has dropped off government agendas in recent years. Given the issues facing the public and politicians at a time of recession maybe it’s easy to understand why no-one wants to think about the effect that their impact on the environment is having on people in other countries.
If we can’t consider our impact on countries suffering the consequences of drought, famine, floods and forced migration now, then we’re unlikely to consider the generations that will bear the burden of living through future climate change even more life-threatening and catastrophic than contemporary shifts.
That sounds depressing doesn’t it!? But the enthusiasm and creative insight that young people showed at our Make the Link –Climate exChange celebration on Monday 12th November proved that even if the politicians, world leaders and financiers are not thinking about our future – teachers, students and experts from development, education and science research are!
I was overjoyed on Monday to see students from seven Make the Link – Climate exChange schools across the UK, engage our panel experts in an interesting and sometimes difficult discussion.
Expert Panelists were: Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and member of the UK Committee on Climate Change; Professor Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London and former Director of the Science Museum; Nim Njuguna, founder of the educational charity Nakuru Environmental and Conservation Trust (linking young people and educators in the UK and Kenya); Elizabeth Anderson, Government Liaison Officer for the UK Youth Climate Coalition and member of the Youth Advisory Panel for the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
The panelists answered questions such as:
- Should we be dictating to developing countries on how to be more sustainable?
- Why is sustainability not a priority on the National Curriculum?
- How can we address climate science skeptics who don’t want to listen to us?
- Should industries be sharing their technologies and research on climate change adaptation with other countries?
Panelists were surrounded by circles of interested young people who had not been able to ask their questions during the discussion at the tea and cake reception afterwards.
Sir Brian Hoskins said that ‘the enthusiasm of the students was great and so were their questions’ and Nim Njugunga said he had spent an ‘interesting and thought provoking time with the students’.
What the whole event showed – from school participation in a pre-discussion renewable energies workshop (looking at wind and solar power), to their discussion contributions – is that whether governments want to change policies on climate change or not, our future voters have strong opinions on what a safe, healthy and green global society should look like!
Make the Link – Climate exChange is an EC-funded education programme delivered in partnership by Citizenship Foundation, Plan International and Partners Bulgaria Foundation.
It has run for three years, in six different countries across Europe and Africa supporting and motivating young people to take action in their local communities based on the positive changes they want to happen on climate change.
The campaign Youth Voice in the EU, working together to tackle climate change is currently submitting a declaration in the European Parliament that calls on MEPs to take youth engagement seriously on policies that will affect their generation dramatically and to consider more meaningful ways to improve education on climate change in Europe.