Carlisle school children have written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, inviting him to attend a climate change summit which aims to give students across Cumbria a voice on what many believe is an increasingly urgent issue.
The letter, written by two school children from Robert Ferguson School, Carlisle, invites him to the Cumbria Youth Climate Change Summit 2019, which is taking place at the University of Cumbria on Thursday 18 April.
Around the world, young people are making their feelings known about climate change.
According to Graham Frost, Head Teacher at Robert Ferguson School, Cumbria's youth are increasingly speaking out in lessons and at school council meetings.
He arranged the summit as an opportunity for them to join together collectively to share their thoughts and concerns about a range of environmental issues, including: global warming; renewable energy; fossil fuels (including fracking); deforestation; loss of biodiversity and extinction; recycling; pollution and single use plastic.
More than 62 children from over 30 schools across Cumbria have signed up to attend. Two children per school will give a two minute presentation representing the collected views of their peers, outlining what they think businesses, local councils and the Government should be doing to combat climate change.
The event will be entirely student-led, although there will be opportunity for three adults to give a response to the views of the young people. Celia Tibble, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Hazel Graham, Chief Executive of Cumbria Action for Sustainability have confirmed their attendance. A further place is reserved for a Government representative.
Head teacher, Graham Frost, an MA alumnus of the university, agrees with the sentiment of the school strikes first popularised by Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, but he wanted to give the youth of Cumbria a supported means to communicate their concerns.
He said: “I hope that the event will result in immediate actions being taken locally and nationally in response to the young people’s concerns and recommendations.
“If so, this summit will not only have achieved environmental benefits but will also have actively demonstrated to the young people the benefits and potential of engaging in democratic processes.”
He added: “Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of summits as we continue to grapple with the critical issue of achieving sustainability for our children’s and the planet’s future.”
Awareness of the impacts of climate change appears to be building momentum of late. The news of this summit comes weeks after Carlisle City Council passed a motion to declare a climate emergency and shift to net-zero carbon for all its activities by 2030. It is only the second local council to do so this year, following South Lakeland District Council on 26 February.
Last week, MP for Workington, Sue Hayman, also declared an environment and climate change emergency in the House of Commons.
The event is being hosted by the Learning, Education and Development (LED) research centre at the University of Cumbria, which supports educational practitioners to develop research-informed practice and publish high quality research that impacts on policy and practice.
Pete Boyd, Professor and Director of the LED research centre was keen to lend his support to the event.
He said: “We are excited to provide a venue for this event that will provide a voice for young people across Cumbria.
“Let’s face it, we have made mistakes on the environment as well as other big current issues. It is young people who will need to lead us into the future and find solutions.”
As awareness of climate change builds with young people more events and activities are being planned across the county.
Hello Future, a university-led collaborative project intent upon encouraging young people into higher education, is hosting its own event to engage young climate activists in July.
Hello Future, recently nominated for an Educate North Award, are offering engaged year 12 pupils a free residential course at the Derwent Hill outdoor centre, Keswick, which includes onsite accommodation, food, equipment, travel and activities inclusively.
To request a place via the Hello Future Facebook page before 17 May 2019.
Any schools that wish to attend the Cumbria Youth Climate Change Summit 2019 can register through Eventbrite.