At first it seemed like a disaster. On Friday 15 March, the day of the first Global Student Strike for Climate, the Coventry United Nations Association (UNA) had invited all Coventry Councillors to come to a meeting in Coventry Council House and listen to students ideas for what the city needs to do to make sure that the rise in global temperature remains within safe limits and so avoid a global catastrophe.
Around 50 students arrived at the meeting, but sadly only Councillor Roger Bailey was able to find the time to attend. So the students, who included climate campaigner Samren Reddy from Rugby and Shreya Virdee and Millie Hilditch-Gray from the UK Student Climate Network (ukscn.org), recorded their ideas on video (available here), hoping that other councillors could be persuaded to watch later.
All of those who were present, which included Dr Alastair Smith and Professor David Mond from the University of Warwick, were astonished at how passionate, intelligent and committed the students were to doing something to prevent a global disaster.
We were shocked to hear the students describe the “massive stigma that attaches to being different and voicing your passion about the climate,” as one student described it. “You are suddenly an outsider. You are not socially acceptable. You should not be listened to but ridiculed.”
Yet this lack of awareness only emphasised how urgent is the need to raise awareness of the problem, not only among their fellow students but, it is evident from their general lack of interest in this meeting, among city councillors too.
For these students are completely correct. The United Nations regards climate change as one of the most serious problems facing the world. It is already causing increases in forest fires, hurricanes and droughts and leading to human migrations which destabilise societies. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that urgent and unprecedented changes are needed in the next 12 years to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C.
“The science is clear,” the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in November. “Without rapid cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth.”
The students were well-aware of all this. Their ideas for actions the Council can take were so practical and exciting that the Coventry UNA, Dr Smith and Professor Mond have agreed to take them forward. And these ideas are not complicated. They want the city council to:
- Encourage every school to establish an eco-council. Councillor Bailey suggested that Ward Councillors should be invited to attend eco-council meetings.
- Establish a Youth Eco-Forum consisting of representatives from school eco-councils that meets in Coventry Council House so students could share ideas with each other and with Council staff and senior executives.
- Declare a State of Emergency in the same way as over 40 other councils have done in the UK in order to raise public and fellow-student awareness of the seriousness of the problem.
So the Student Strike for Climate has had a positive and constructive outcome in Coventry.
A video of the whole event with the text of important statements is available on the UNA Coventry website at cefvideo.unacov.uk
A shortened video is available here.
Information for Editors
Climate Change and the United Nations
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society. To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Summit on 23 September to meet the climate challenge. The Summit will showcase a leap in collective national political ambition and it will demonstrate massive movements in the real economy in support of the agenda. Together, these developments will send strong market and political signals and inject momentum in the “race to the top” among countries, companies, cities and civil society that is needed to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
· UNEP prediction about state of earth in 2050: http://bit.ly/1Niu2q7
UNA Coventry Branch
UNA Coventry Branch is affiliated to the United Nations Association UK. This charity is the UK’s leading source of independent analysis on the UN, and a UK-wide grassroots movement. The Branch believes that a strong, credible and effective UN is essential if we are to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world. We run events and activities aimed at making the people of Coventry more aware of the work of the UN. We work with Coventry and Warwick Universities, Coventry City Council and a range of other partners to present workshops and conferences to young people. We also run a popular website and issue monthly newsletters.
For more about UNA Coventry: http://unacov.uk/
Our Twitter handle is @UNACoventry
Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/unacov/
United Nations Association Coventry Branch Secretary