Straining to be heard: the voices of children and young people at COP26

Published 25/11/2021   |   Last Updated 25/11/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

It was a privilege to hear Al Gore’s address on Friday 5th November at COP26 about the all work that world leaders and decision makers still needed to do to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. But while I reflected on his words it struck me: where are the children and young people in all this? Why don’t they have seats at the negotiating tables? After all, whatever is – or isn’t – achieved following COP26 will surely affect them more than anybody else.

One inspiring young panel member, Clover Hogan, told us why. Young people have been historically excluded from these spaces.

She went on:

“I invite you to look around now and ask where are the young people. We are out, in the streets, protesting. We are protesting because we are angry.”

She was right. At that very moment, thousands of children and young people were marching in Glasgow city centre, demanding that their leaders do more to save the planet.

Another inspiring young person, Greta Thunberg, was telling those marchers that COP26 was a failure. “It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place”, she said.

A few days later Greta Thunberg, alongside 13 other inspiring young people, would submit a petition to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres asking that he and the leaders of all UN agencies declare a systemwide UN emergency on the climate crisis. Just like they did in relation to the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, I knew before I attended COP26 that children and young people have plenty to say about climate change. But what I took from that day, more than anything else, was that they deserve more than to be part of a consultation exercise. It’s not enough for those of us in positions of power just to listen. We have to involve them in decision-making processes and act on what they say, too.

This is exactly what the Children, Young People and Education Committee have committed to do throughout the 6th Senedd. In our strategic plan, which we will publish soon, we say:

“At the heart of our scrutiny will be the voices of children and young people  We will use new and innovative ways to listen to the hardest to reach.”

This is a bold and ambitious statement. It means that sometimes we will have to move outside our comfort zone. We will try new things, and some of those things will work better than others.

I can’t promise that we will get it right all of the time. But I can promise that we as a Committee will do all that we can so that children and young people don’t have to take to the streets to get a seat at the table.

Jayne Bryant, MS

Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee

Get involved

We are currently engaging with children and young people throughout Wales to ask them what they think the Committee’s priorities should be over the next few years. You can find out more about this work by contacting SeneddChildren@Senedd.Wales, or visiting our web pages.

We publish information about upcoming meetings, inquiries and other work that are involved in on Twitter. Follow us @SeneddChildren.

We always welcome any views on anything that falls within our remit. Get in touch via email (SeneddChildren@Senedd.Wales) or via Twitter.