Time to listen to young people on Climate Change and Brexit

Recently, I met with a group of local campaigners from the international development charity CAFOD to talk about the impact changing climate is having on communities around the world.

During our meeting, I was delighted to sign a letter that a large group of cross-party MPs are sending to the Prime Minister. The letter sets a target of ensuring the UK no longer contributes to climate change within a generation. It’s a no-brainer that we need to act.

The meeting on Climate Change caused me to reflect more widely. I thought of how often Climate Change comes up as an issue when I visit local schools. When I met with children at Ysgol Sant Dunawd, Bangor on Dee, I was inspired by their amazing ‘plastic not so fantastic’ campaign and the practical actions they were taking to limit the use of single use plastics. A meeting with the School Council of Ysgol y Waun, Chirk left me in no doubt about their commitment to recycling and a clean environment. And just today, I heard about an exciting programme of sustainability workshops and other activities that Ysgol Dinas Bran will be undertaking.

Young people are at the forefront of environmental campaigns and nowadays we wouldn’t dream of excluding the younger generation from discussions about Climate Change. Here in Wales we take this a welcome step further with the 2015 Future Generations Act. This Act requires our public bodies to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.  

It’s right that we’re listening more and more to the voice of the young people when it comes to the future of our planet, Why do we therefore think it’s OK to ignore them when it comes to Brexit? Brexit isn’t like an election where voters go to the polls every few years. It’s something that will impact the new generation of voters far more than anyone else.

The Prime Minister is quite happy for me to vote on her deal multiple times in Parliament, but she won’t give 18, 19, 20 and 21 year olds the right to vote once. Surely, now that we have a real Brexit deal before us (not just a few general aspirations), the Prime Minister should have the courage to ask us all what we think? In May 2016, Nigel Farage argued, “in a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way”. I agree totally. It’s time we stopped arguing, gave the people the final say and started treating the younger generation of voters with some respect.