Hosted by St Helens Borough Council in the historic council chamber, 15 students from De La Salle School gathered to hear from local figures in the local fight against climate change.
Speakers included Stephen Sykes, independent Co-chair of the local Climate Commission, and Councillor Mancyia Uddin, the council’s Climate Change Champion and Climate Commission Co-chair.
Cllr Uddin presented the council’s new Climate Response Plan with students’ feedback sought, while Stephen Sykes demonstrated the urgency of the climate crisis and highlighted the great power that young people have to affect change.
Students then broke into groups to discuss key issues in the climate change agenda, including waste, energy and transport, before presenting their own ideas to make each more sustainable, considering the challenges that might present and must be overcome. They also made pledges to demonstrate their climate action commitments.
The event is the first in a series, with more to be held and pushed out to other schools in the borough next year.
Speaking about the event, Mrs Linda Rooney, Head of Geography at De La Salle School, said: “Our students had the opportunity to discuss local climate issues and solutions with councillors and business leaders. This was a very successful event and was the beginning of a new innovation in youth leadership and involvement at a local level.”
The youth commission came as De La Salle School, like many others in St Helens, brought COP26 to the borough and celebrated their own Earth Week, beginning with a Meat-free Monday. Among the activities at De La Salle, senior prefects sold green ribbons, raising funds for the school’s rooftop garden and tree planting projects, in partnership with the Mersey Forest.
Lessons taught students about the impacts of climate change and the significance of the COP26 climate summit, and each student made an environmental pledge which will be made into a wall display. A local social action group called Green Influencers came into school to lead a carousel of activities. Students including the school’s Eco-Committee made bird feeders and bird boxes to put around the school site to attract wildlife and promote biodiversity.
De La Salle finished off the week with an Earth Hour, in which the school turned off lights, screens smart whiteboards and other electronic devices, had quiet reading sessions and time to design posters about electronic waste and create pollution catchers.
Councillor Mancyia Uddin, the council’s Climate Change Champion, said: “All the students did a brilliant job at the first Youth Climate Commission, and gave us lots of great feedback about how we can engage with them and about what they’re doing in their own lives to support climate action. This is something we’re hoping to roll out to other schools, so it is very much the beginning of a journey, but it was a great start and I can’t wait to hear from more young people.”
Councillor Andy Bowden, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:
“Now more than ever we recognise the need to protect our environment and the communities we are here to serve. But we can’t do it alone. Climate change is a crisis faced by all of us, and we all have a role to play in addressing it.
“It’s for this reason that engaging with our young people, and providing opportunities for them to make their voices heard, is vitally important. I’m really pleased that we have young people in our borough who are so passionate about the climate agenda and I look forward to future events.”
To view the council’s new Climate Response Plan and the website dedicated to recording the council’s pathway to net zero carbon emissions, visit https://netzero.sthelens.gov.uk