Monday, 29 March 2010

The power of young people

Katie has been busy volunteering in her local area.

Since I returned from Copenhagen, I have been sharing what I learnt at UNICEF's Children's Climate Forum with my local community and other young people. In Decemeber, a presentations evening was held at Worcester Volunteer Centre, where I have been volunteering for almost two years. The international environmental youth project in the centre, called SEED, also had exciting stories to tell as they had just returned from a trip to India where they learnt about sustainability out there. A fact that really surprised me was that in terms of wind power installed capacity, India is ranked fifth in the world.

In February, I was invited to speak at the National Trust's 'You, Me & The Climate' project's celebration event, which was held at one of their beautiful properties, Prior Park, in Bath. I am always really impressed by the National Trust's work with young people and the environment, but I guess they have to be given their organisation is already being severely impacted by climate change. For instance, over the last eight years, they have been forced to make over 400 separate insurance claims for flood or storm damage, worth over £3.2 million.

'Society cannot ignore climate change - its impacts are being felt
already and they will become much more widespread.' - Dame Fiona Reynold
DBE, Director General of the National Trust

Over the past few months, I have also been organising a high school eco-ambassadors event, which took place at Worcestershire's County Hall. Five local eco-schools attended, along with two youth volunteering groups from Worcester Volunteer Centre and some county councillors.

'Eco-Schools is an international award programme
that guides schools on their sustainable journey, providing a framework to
help embed these principles into the heart of school life.'

The purpose of the event was to give the eco-schools the opportunity to hear about wider environmental volunteering opportunities whilst sharing what they are already doing within their schools. I also ran a climate change-related activity, called 'Rising Tide', which I too from Tagd's peer education pack. I wanted to communicate the fact that in the next 100 years, Atlantic sea levels are predicted to rise by up to 1m, threatening low-level countries all across the world, including the Maldives and Bangladesh.

Having a fun break, doing the Rising Tide activity

All my events received great feedback and I encourage you to hold some of your own about issues that are important to you. We need to make adults realise that young people have a passion, creativity and determination that can and should be used as a positive force for change in society.

Katie x

Child Friendly Communities is off to a flying start!

I’m Emma, one of the five Article 12 Advisers working on Child Friendly Communities, which is a new initiative by UNICEF UK to try and get children and young people’s rights embedded at the heart of UK society. It’s an award scheme for local authorities who can show that children’s rights are known about, respected and actively upheld. If they can prove this then they can call themselves a UNICEF certified ‘Child Friendly Community’.

The Article 12 Advisers are a group of young people from across the country helping to give a young person’s perspective on the project. UNICEF themselves are upholding children’s rights by hearing and respecting the views of young people. This means our right to have our views listened to, promised in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; is upheld within UNICEF itself. We also help UNICEF to make sure that what they’re doing will provide real benefits for children and young people.

So far we’ve been working on the assessment framework for Child Friendly Communities, which local authorities will have to fulfil. We have all been giving our perspective on it and looking at ways in which young people can be involved in the process. Personally I’ve been looking at how training in children’s rights, for staff who work with children and young people, will have an effect on our lives

On 16th February we had the first meeting of the advisory committee for Child Friendly Communities. This was a meeting of groups, charities and other organisations who work on children’s rights or might have an interest in the project. We broke into small groups and assessed different aspects of the framework.

From my point of view it was simultaneously terrifying and very exciting and interesting. On the one hand, having to talk to this group of people who work in children’s rights, who clearly will know more than me, was very intimidating, but on the other hand to get their perspective on the project was fantastic and I know I learnt a lot. It was great to get feedback on the framework and I felt the meeting was very successful.

So the work now goes on, and we’ll keep you updated on what we’re doing.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The proof is in the pudding!

Katie takes part in the second DECC Youth Advisory Panel pilot session.

DECC's commitment to young people and our futures was truly established for me a week ago, as I was invited to attend the second pilot session for the Youth Advisory Panel. The fact that DECC are willing to give up almost an entire day to listen to what young people have to say and assure us that the Youth Advisory Panel is a priority for the current Government really fills me with hope.

The day kicked off bright and early, with a lengthy discussion about the purpose of the panel, how the panel members would be selected, the role of individual members and how DECC can support us, and these ideas were then presented to Ed Miliband. Whilst the details are still to be confirmed, here are the key messages that I took away from the day:

The DECC Youth Panel represents the youth voice to DECC, particularly in ensuring the long term impacts of policy are sound, safe and agreed to by the future generation. It aims to:

  • Hold DECC accountable to youth stakeholders
  • Advise on how to work with and engage young people
  • Where appropriate, and where agreed by the youth panel, to proactively engage with wider youth audiences

In the afternoon we discussed DECC's Consultation on Skills for the Low Carbon Economy, which is looking at the skills needed to meet the UK's targets for 2020 (reduction of 34% in greenhouse gas emissions) and for 2050 (reduction in at least 80% in greenhouse gas emissions). Key areas of the economy that were identified include:

  • Decarbonising power
  • Decarbonising transport
  • Decarbonising buildings, construction
  • Decarbonising supply chains across the entire economy
  • Climate change adaptation

Our discussion mainly focused on the need to encourage more young people to choose a low-carbon career. We learnt from David Kidney that there will be up to 70,000 jobs available in the wind industry alone, and therefore teachers and career advisors have a key role to play in getting this sort of information across and telling young people that there is a long-term, sustainable and worthwhile career in helping Britain's transition into a low carbon economy.

The DECC Youth Panel will not meet again until after the General Election, providing that the party that wins still gives the panel a thumbs up. But until then, we're all busy drafting reports from the meeting and making the most of our newly established connections with young climate leaders from across the country!

Katie x

Friday, 12 March 2010

David Kidney: Looking Good

Meeting with David Kidney was a great opportunity for us, the Copenhagen 4, to tell The Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change about our experiences in Copenhagen. Incidentally, is was also a marvellous opportunity to see inside the Houses of Parliament, in the ‘canteen’ – if I can call it that with oak panelling and the iconic green leather of the House of Commons, anyway, let’s just say it was a far cry from my school canteen! our meeting was informal but informative. I left the meeting feeling both positive and reassured that out government really does want to listen to us. It was also great to know that Kidney had read the manifesto from the Children’s Climate Forum – ‘What’s up COP?’ and agreed with all that was outlined, saying it was ‘fantastic’ how we had looked at adaptation as well as mitigation.
From our meeting we were hoping to share all that we had gained from the forum, especially how all the delegates came together with the goal of trying to safeguard the planet for future generations- not out of self-interest. Kidney was pleased by this and said how he felt that politicians had a thing or two to learn from us- something that Kidney assured us he would feed back to Ed Milliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The main points of discussion from our meeting were:

  • The role of civil society, maintaining the momentum built in the run up to COP15, ensuring Mexico delivers all that was promised of Copenhagen.
  • The role of young people in the Climate Debate and the example of global co-operation they set at the Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen.
  • The DECC, Department of Energy and Climate Change Youth Panel; Luke, Katie and Kidney came straight from sitting on the panel to the meeting. The plan being to get a panel set up and cemented before the general election.
  • The Robin Hood Tax (click to support)- this was something Kidney supported, his only concern being that the funds gathered would be allocated to too many projects, one of these being Climate Change.
  • Climate scepticism, Kidney reassured us that while there will always be criticism the government is trying to promote greater transparency from scientific bodies to help reassure the public that climate change is a very real danger that is imperative we deal with.

    Overall, Kidney’s message was that of a positive one and that by the time we come to Mexico the World should be in a much stronger place to reach a legally binding consensus. Additionally, ever since December more and more countries have been signing up to the Copenhagen Accord- showing political willingness and progress.

    The message is: We must continue to lobby, campaign and overcome climate change scepticism but things are starting to look up. We must keeping going. We must keep believing.

'Make the change- show that you care'.