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.