Climate Crisis Youth Summit

Fri, 11/05/2021 - 15:00


On Friday 5th November, the Youth Working Group of Belfast Climate Commission hosted the Climate Crisis Youth Summit to coincide with COP26 Youth Day. The summit brought some of Northern Ireland’s young leading climate change advocates together to discuss and share ideas on how best to tackle the global emergency.


Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl welcomed young people from across Northern Ireland to City Hall and joined Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon MLA and Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People in a panel discussion, focused on findings of a recent survey asking young people aged 13-24 from across NI for their views on the climate crisis.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “Hearing from our city’s young people, the next generation, is crucial in this ongoing battle against climate change. It is increasingly recognised that our younger generation have an important role to play in climate change governance as ultimately, they are the voice of the future.

“The global youth population in Northern Ireland is large and growing and if young people are properly involved in the decisions that affect their lives, they can help to shape a greener, more sustainable Belfast. I hope to take some of the youth energy and determination from the Youth Summit with me as I travel to COP26 next week on behalf of the city.”


Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “The activism of our young people is inspiring when it comes to driving the campaign to end the climate emergency.  I was delighted to be asked to participate in the summit today and I am looking forward to hearing the positive changes young people are making towards saving our planet.

“I will be attending a number of events at COP26 next week which will give me a chance to raise some of the issues I will hear today on a global stage.  Our young people are the future, and we must listen to them and crucially we must act now to ensure we have a greener, cleaner planet for them and many generations after them. We all have a role to play before it is too late.”


Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, said: “A key part of my role is challenging government and statutory agencies to hear directly from children and young people when they are making decisions. This is most crucial when considering climate change and environmental degradation.

“While children and young people are a key group in society right now, they also represent the future to us. They will be living with the consequences of our action – and inaction – for longer than any other age group. They will also have to explain to future generations, those coming after us, about how we responded to the crisis we have created.

“As we consider the debates at COP26 and follow up actions, children and young people must be at the heart of decision-making, and of holding governments to account both internationally and back home in Northern Ireland.”


Chair of Belfast Climate Commission Youth Working Group Maria Aaroy spoke about her involvement in the Youth Summit event and said: “ We devised the survey in order to explore young peoples’ views and opinions across a range of issues associated with climate change and it is clear from the findings that time is of the essence. Young people want action now and having the opportunity to speak directly to the panel today and influence them on future decisions will be very empowering.”


Members of the Youth Working Group joined the panel to discuss the report findings and share their views and ideas on how best to tackle the climate emergency.

On being part of the discussion Andra said: "A lot of the time, young people's views opinions and knowledge about environmental matters (or anything for that matter) is overlooked and sometimes undermined. Yet, a lot of the time young people know more than some of our politicians about the climate crisis and about the need to act. I believe having a young person at the table would also bring a new perspective to everything. The majority of young people are not driven by taking a side; they're really listening to the science before shaping their views or making any decisions. Society as a whole would benefit from young people being listened to properly."


Celeste reiterated the need for direct engagement between politicans and young people: "No one knows what it's like being a child in Northern Ireland unless you are a child or a young person in Northern Ireland so being able to speak about what we want and being able to see the three of you face-to-face is making a difference rather than speaking to a middleman. We're able to actually look you in the eyes and say 'we care about this issue, we need to do more'."


In the closing remarks, Georgia highlighted that there is only so much individuals can do - those in power need to lead action: "We all have a role to play in protecting our environment; however, some of us hold more responsibility and power than others and the more power you have, the greater your responsibility. It's good to empower young people to change but you have to do what you're saying as well... 55% of young people agree feel ignored by adults and people in power. What are you doing about that?"


This event was livestreamed by Niavac. You can watch the recording here

More information is available here and the report is available to download below.