‘We’re disappointed’: Young climate activists call for Boris Johnson meeting ahead of Cop26

Exclusive: The Independent understands that the prime minister is considering the invitation and several party leaders have already accepted

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
Saturday 02 October 2021 13:59
Climate strike London: Hundreds of young protesters highlight climate crisis

Young climate activists across the UK have called for Boris Johnson and other party leaders to meet with them ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in just under a month’s time.

In letters to Westminster leaders, the group of 33 campaigners said the UK-hosted UN meeting represents “a critical juncture in the global fight against the climate and nature crises”.

“We’re disappointed that despite the UK’s ambition, our actions currently fall short of what is needed to put us on track to fulfil our own climate commitment of achieving net zero by 2050,” the group said.

“As leaders of the UK’s major political parties, you have the power to ensure that the climate agenda is a priority for all and we therefore invite you to meet with us ahead of Cop26.”

It comes after Boris Johnson told a youth climate summit in Milan on Thursday that young people had “every right to be angry” about the environmental crises.

“Your future is being stolen before your eyes, and I saw the protesters earlier on, and frankly you have every right to be angry with those who aren’t doing enough to stop it,” he told the conference.

The Independent understands that the prime minister is currently considering the proposal.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, the Green Party and the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland confirmed that they would meet with the young activists.

Labour has also received the invitation and it is understood that shadow business secretary Ed Miliband is likely to accept on behalf of the party.

Dr Mya-Rose Craig, a 19-year-old letter signee and founder and president of Black2Nature, said “the views of young people must be at the heart of Cop26”.

“It is our future planet that is being carved out,” she said.

“[We need to able to] put forward our views and influence Cop26, which needs to be the strongest ever and take decisive action that will stop climate change alongside global climate justice”.

Dr Mya-Rose Craig says the views of young people must be ‘at the heart of Cop26’

Research published on Monday found that young people today will face many more extreme weather events than their grandparents as a result of global heating.

Andra Vladu, an 18-year-old environmental campaigner from Belfast who also signed the letter, said it was “crucial” that young people are involved in Cop26.

“For many people around the world, the climate crisis is already happening,” she said.

“Our future is in the hands of the current generation of politicians. It’s crucial that young people are involved in the decision making process by actively taking part in events such as this.

“We expect delegates to listen to our demands for a safe future, and come up with real solutions to quickly reduce greenhouse gases and transition to a sustainable way of living.”

Anita Okunde, a letter signee from Fridays for the Future Manchester, added: “This meeting is important in the lead up to Cop26 as we want an inclusive conference that takes on the opinions of all, specifically the generation that will have the most burden.”

Confirming his attendance at the meeting, Sir Ed told The Independent: “Climate change is happening right now, from record high temperatures to flash floods in London and wildfires across the globe.

“With a month to go until Cop in Glasgow, it is vitally important that the world comes together to act to protect future generations from climate change. That is why I was delighted to accept this invitation to meet with youth climate campaigners.”

Sian Berry, the former acting leader for the Green Party, accepted the invitation on behalf of her party.

“As the generation that will be most impacted by the climate crisis created by earlier generations including my own, young people’s concerns must be heard loud and clear,” she told The Independent.

“We know that the climate emergency is causing distress, anger and other negative emotions in young people, so climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is also one of mental health.

“So our leadership will be delighted to meet with young people ahead of Cop26 to discuss concerns and explore solutions that can offer future generations hope.”

Liz Saville Roberts, Westminster leader for Plaid Cymru, said: “Our planet, and the fantastic wealth of life it supports, is in jeopardy and we must implement holistic action to reduce our carbon emissions and protect our natural environment. Thanks to young climate activists that message has been heard loud and clear. But we now need action.

“The UK government has so far failed to lead, both at home and abroad. We have the technology, we have the resources but we don’t have the time. Our climate cannot wait, and neither should our governments.”

Stephen Farry, Westminster leader for Alliance, described the climate crisis as “a major issue for all of us”.

“Earlier this year, Alliance published its Green New Deal, our pathway as we emerge from the pandemic. Fighting the climate crisis will play a vital role in that,” he told The Independent.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “Young voices are essential to drive the climate change conversation into the next generation and this government is absolutely committed to tackling climate change to ensure future generations can inherit a greener society.

“The UK has cut emissions faster than any G7 country over the past three decades, while powering forward with delivering the prime minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.

“The government will continue to work with world leaders, campaigners and young people on our climate ambitions, and the upcoming Cop26 summit at Glasgow will bring together leaders from across the world to accelerate action against climate change.”

Representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland did not respond to a request for comment.

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