Leeds Youth Voice Summit on Climate Change

Sophie – Year 9 Student

Editor’s Note: In February 2020, prior to lockdown, Sophie and three other GSAL students attended the Leeds Youth Voice Summit on Climate Change. Students were given the opportunity to learn more about the effects of and science behind climate change, take part in a Q&A panel with the Leader of Leeds City Council and work together with city councillors from the Climate Emergency Advisory Committee to develop solutions. They were also encouragement to consider ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the GSAL school community. You can stay up-to-date with all the latest environmental news right here in The GSAL Journal. CAB

[Featured image: Leeds crowd. (Leeds Climate)]

The topic on climate change really worries me, with it getting worse with every year, causing species to go extinct and many people as well as animals to be badly affected. However, I have hope that we can reverse it. The Leeds Youth Voice Summit on Climate Change that took place on the 12th February really inspired me, in what we can do as individuals and as a community, it taught me how even little changes to our daily lives can really make an impact. I think that the speeches made by the councillors were very uplifting, by sharing positive ways that Leeds City Council are acting as a result of the crisis and what they plan to do in the future as well as suggesting ways we can help.

The day started with an introduction speech by Councillor Lisa Mulherin (the Executive Board Member of Climate Change). She began with telling us how they are planning to tackle climate change. Leeds City Council are listening to youth strikers demanding change during this urgent crisis, they are planning on how they can act on this. Councillor Lisa Mulherin said “We all know someone who thinks climate change is not something we need to take action”. She then went on to talk about how clear the science on climate change has become in the recent years, there has been a common occurrence of extreme weather events and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have resolved to reduce carbon emissions with the collective action of large businesses, schools and hospitals.

Leeds City Council have already hosted a Big Climate Conversation, 8000 residents in Leeds turned up, showing that there is a widespread support for actions. Leeds University also took action – they led a citizen’s jury on climate change. This was led by Professor Andy Goulson, over nine weeks they decided on various actions this included public transport and energy efficiency in homes.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin concluded that the carbon emissions will be cut by 50%. She mentioned that Leeds City Council are reducing their own carbon footprint by ensuring all vehicles are electric. She announced how Leeds City Council are planning to cut carbon emissions by 50%. They will invest 270 million pounds in cycling and walking schemes as well as investing 276 million pounds for trolley bus schemes from central government.  This ensures that there are bus lanes and bus priority gates so that they can get through traffic. They also are going to segregate cycle and pedestrian lanes. Pressure is being forced for funding on central government for a mass transit system, so that this can be possible.

Anti-idling events are going to be held (behaviour change campaigns that help to reduce localised air pollution) by the local authorities, councillors and volunteers, they will help educate both pedestrians and motorists (who leave their engines running when parked).

Professor Julia Steinberger from the University of Leeds who works in Social Ecology and Ecological Economics said that there is no good news in terms of climate science and that it is only getting worse. She said that schools must adopt an overall climate education strategy in order to inform students of the current climate crisis. To do this we must find the best way to engage school populations to believe that there are serious issues. She also said there is no excuse for institutions to [delay] and we must demand more.

The first workshop was facilitated by Thinking Space – part of the Philosophy Foundation. In this workshop we were given the opportunity to collaborate ideas and by the end of the session come to an agreement on questions we would like to ask the Q&A panel.

Leeds City Council are aware of young people becoming increasingly anxious and the purpose of this event was to listen to any concerns we had and any questions we wanted to ask. In the second workshop we were given the opportunity to ask these questions on how a city responds to a climate emergency. One question asked was what can the council do about the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport – they responded that they could potentially increase taxes for those who fly frequently.

The final workshop focused on how young people can make a difference as individuals, as a community, at school and with family. We were given the opportunity to work with Councillors and Council Officers to develop creative shared solutions to creating a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

Sophie

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