On Friday 15th October, over 1500 15 to 18 year olds from across the country gathered at Stowe School for the first National Schools’ Climate Action Event. Concerned by the detrimental impacts that climate change was having, pupils at Stowe had decided to start a student-led movement to encourage the nation to reduce its carbon footprint. The aim of the event was to launch the UK’s student-led movement to protect the environment and urge schools to pledge to become Carbon Net Zero by 20140 to pave the way for a more sustainable, greener planet. Over the course of the day, students heard from well-known climate change activists and participated in a wide range of interactive activities in breakout rooms.
Environmentalist and Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, immediately engaged the young audience with his passion and commitment to protect the planet while Neil Agius, a former Olympian who recently broke the longest non-stop ocean swim record, gave an inspirational talk on the damage being done by ocean plastics.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, kept his composure as students grilled him about his plans to put climate policy at the centre of a Lib Dem revival. Students were particularly impressed by Davey’s determination to convince foreign leaders of the urgency needed to tackle the climate crisis.
Following a food waste demonstration by zero-waste chef and BBC Earth host Max La Manna, pupils made their own zero-waste lunch. The majority of students were shocked to learn that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually and were encouraged to move towards a healthy, plant-rich diet. Sahana Gupta, a student from Bancrofts school, said, ‘The fact that we waste a third of all food produced for human consumption is dreadful, especially when there are some people who don’t have enough food. I’m definitely going to be more conscious about my own food waste’.
In the afternoon, students were put into breakout rooms where they took part in a series of interactive workshops to further educate them on the potential of methods to prevent climate change. The Royal Geographical Society gave students the opportunity to use a recently manufactured digital tool, ‘My Carbon Calculator’, which gave students an insight into the road to net zero in the UK. Sevan Taylor commented, ‘The carbon calculator is a really useful tool because it shows us that achieving carbon net zero is possible.’
Despite the shocking statistics and the devastating impacts of climate change seen worldwide, many remain unmotivated to even make the smallest lifestyle changes to mitigate the damage. Indeed, despite the Government’s amendment to the Climate Change Act in 2019, in which they committed the UK to achieving net zero by 2050, the UK is currently far from achieving its carbon budget targets. Nevertheless, having witnessed a new generation being energised to stop climate change, I remain optimistic that we can still create a better future for ourselves.