Essex Climate Action Commission: Why young people are at the heart of our climate initiative

If we don’t change our ways, we’ll need almost three planets’ worth of resources to sustain our lifestyles by 2050. It’s shocking to consider the scientific reality we now face, and it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a rise in ‘climate anxiety’ among young people.

According to Deloitte, millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) consider climate change to be by far the most concerning challenge facing society right now – and it’s been all over the news lately that they’re struggling to deal with an impending sense of doom around the state of our planet.

On the plus side, this is leading to young people developing the resilience, knowledge and dedication to tackle environmental issues. Maybe it’s the Greta Thunberg effect: this new ‘woke’ generation is more societally aware than ever. They’re displaying remarkable courage and a willingness to take action where previous generations haven’t.

And that’s why we’re proudly putting young people at the heart of the Essex Climate Action Commission.

Our first Co-chair is 16 years old and goes to school in Chelmsford, while our second Co-chair is 14 and from Epping Forest. They were elected to the Commission by the Young Essex Assembly, a youth council which decides the priorities for young people in Essex. If we’re looking at the environmental future of our county, it makes sense to bring in the people who care most and will have to deal with these issues in a few decades’ time.

Who else is on the Climate Action Commission?

Our two teenage Co-chairs are joined by Lord Randall of Uxbridge as Chair of the Commission, who brings remarkable expertise as the former environment advisor to Prime Minister Theresa May. The group is bolstered by representatives from the main political parties and several officers from Essex County Council. We’ll also be adding other leaders from within business, academia, local groups and industry bodies. I look forward to sharing a final list of members once it’s confirmed – you can follow me on Twitter for the latest news.

How will the Commission work?

The Commission will run initially for two years, with £250,000 set aside for research during this time. Another £5m will be spent on climate change action over three years. In the first year the team will meet nine times, and they’ll produce two reports for the Essex County Council Cabinet.

In the second year, the Commission will meet quarterly to monitor how we’re acting on the outlined recommendations and provide further advice and guidance to the Cabinet. All Climate Change Commission meetings are public, so if you’re interested to know more please do come along and share your views.

How can you get involved?

An important part of the Climate Change Commission is finding out the views of Essex residents. The Commission wants to engage with local communities, commission research and explore the creation of a Citizen’s Assembly.

After all, this is your Essex, and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t putting your thoughts and opinions at the centre of our climate action.

Councillor Walsh planting trees

As for me, I’ll be listening and learning as much as possible from the Essex Climate Change Commission. I’m making more conscious decisions in what I eat and buy and I’m getting involved with other climate-focused initiatives from the council. In fact, this week I’m donning my wellies and joining the Essex Forest Initiative to plant some trees. The Initiative will plant a total of 375,000 trees and capture 60,000 tonnes of carbon over the next five years, and I’m chuffed to be playing my part.

 

How are you adapting your lifestyle to reduce your environmental impact? I’d love to hear how Essex residents are going green – tweet me your thoughts, photos and videos at @cllrsimonwalsh. I’ve also listed below a few useful initiatives and resources from ECC that could help you with your efforts.

You can also head to the Essex County Council website to find out more about what we are doing to protect the environment and reduce climate change.