Young residents shaping action on the climate emergency
Merton Youth Parliament plus another young resident with a particular interest in climate change, were joined by four scrutiny councillors from the Overview and Scrutiny Commission to take part in an event, during local democracy week in October, to address a question posed by the Youth Parliament: What is Merton council doing to address their responsibilities on climate change in order to secure the future of our young residents?
The meeting, chaired by the Youth Parliament, included a presentation from Merton’s lead for climate change, Councillor Tobin Byers (Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and the Environment). He outlined that the council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and committed to working towards becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030, and a carbon neutral borough by 2050, with support from government through legislation and funding, and from residents through behaviour change.
Dominique Hill, Climate Change Projects Officer, also presented at the meeting giving an overview of the work that the council has undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the implementation of its Climate Change Strategy in 2009. The Council has now committed to working towards making its own buildings and services carbon neutral by 2030 in order to lead by example within the borough.
The Council is currently developing a Climate Action Plan to set out what needs to happen in order to achieve both the Council and borough-wide targets across a number of areas including building and energy, products and waste, transport, behaviour change and engagement, green spaces, investments and sustainable diets. The action plan will be informed by a number of work streams including internal discussions within the Council, an external working group (Merton’s Climate Emergency Working Group) and a public consultation. The Climate Emergency Working Group is formed of local residents and representatives from community organisations (such as Sustainable Merton) with relevant professional expertise and community reach. Tobin highlighted the crucial role of young people in shaping this work and invited the young residents to share ideas on the best ways forward. The young representatives were also invited to join the council’s Climate Emergency Working Group to continue to contribute to this work in the long term. A young resident has now become a formal member of the working group.
At the event, the young people proposed recommendations to take to Cabinet. These focused on: sharing information on air quality around schools and facilitating educational programmes for children and families; increasing in the supply of dockless hire bikes for use by Merton residents; raising awareness of the impact of light pollution; and creative ways to improve and encourage recycling in the community.
The recommendations were taken to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission in November and will be presented to Merton Council’s Cabinet on 16 December 2019. Cabinet will then decide how it wishes to respond to the recommendations of the joint scrutiny exercise.
For more information on our work to tackle climate change please contact the Climate Change Projects Officer Dominique.Hill@merton.gov.uk. For information about Merton’s Youth Parliament and other children and young people’s participation and engagement opportunities in Merton please contact the service manager Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org.