Young people in Cumbria have seized on the momentum generated by the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow to present their environmental concerns to leading figures within the county.

They presented the outcomes from a recent successful Cumbria Youth Climate Summit to Councillor Celia Tibble (Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Environment) and Karen Mitchell (co-chair of Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership and CEO of Cumbria Action for Sustainability).

The meeting, which took place at Cumbria County Council’s Kendal offices, coincided with Youth and Public Empowerment Day at COP26, the United Nations summit that brought together heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change and ran until November 12.

The delegation of Cumbrian youngsters featured 17-year-old Hannah Wright from Kendal, who was recently selected to feature as Europe’s contributor to a Sky Kids documentary about COP26 and how climate change is already having an impact on their lives.

Hannah and her fellow young activists shared examples of youth voices and activities in Cumbria. They made key climate recommendations for Cumbria relating to transport, the environment and opportunities to generate clean energy.

Discussions also took place as to how civic leaders can ensure that young people are given the opportunity to be actively involved and influence all aspects of Zero Carbon Cumbria and other environmental initiatives in the county.

The Cumbria Youth Climate Summit took place online last month. It was organised by Cumbria Development Education Centre (CDEC) and CAfS as part of the “Zero Carbon Cumbria, by the people for the people” project, which is funded by the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund. Cumbria County Council, Fellfoot Forward and Eco-schools also provided support.

Over 500 students from 15 schools throughout the county took part and helped shape the recommendations presented to Councillor Tibble and colleagues, which included calls for:

  • cycling to be made a safer transport option with more cycle lanes around Cumbria
  • reduced costs of public transport
  • schools and their local communities to turn waste ground into attractive shared spaces with opportunities to grow produce
  • increased recycling, reducing food waste and plastic packaging
  • increased opportunities for young people to engage on local climate-related decision-making, including representation where appropriate at council meetings.

They were also shown a short video featuring students from across Cumbria expressing their concerns and hopes for climate action. You can view the video on our YouTube channel.

Fiona (Co-host of Cumbria Youth Climate Summit. Aged 17 from Penrith) said ‘I think that everyone has the responsibility to do what they can. So if you’re a person who is in a position of influence, I’d like to see you using your voice to try and promote change as much as you can. I really think that there has never been a more important time to act’.

Cllr Celia Tibble, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: ‘I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear the wide range of ideas and views of our young people on climate change, and the actions they are taking to encourage all of us to tackle the most important global issue of our time.

‘Their passion for demanding change and direct action is inspiring, and I have no doubt there are some future leaders among them. Their dedication to the sustainability of our planet must now inspire governments and organisations to facilitate real change, and they have my full support during this vitally important time.’

Karen Mitchell, CEO of CAfS, said: ‘Young people have every right to be concerned for their futures and to demand action on climate change There is much that we all need to do and can do here in Cumbria that these young people have highlighted very well and which would benefit all our lives as well as help safeguard their futures. People and organisations across Cumbria must listen and respond to them.’

Laura Goad, Director of CDEC, said: “The Youth Climate Summit last month was Cumbria’s third such event; Robert Ferguson Primary School planned the initial summits in 2019 and 2020. This summit showed us yet again how passionate young people are about the health and wellbeing of the planet and how they are equipped – with ideas, plans and vision – to take local action that can have global impact.”