Voices of the Future: Young generation crucial for achieving climate targets

Jian Feng explores what steps are being taken by young people to achieve Leeds’ climate targets.
Franks Feng: The young generation is crucial in supporting the city’s climate targets.Franks Feng: The young generation is crucial in supporting the city’s climate targets.
Franks Feng: The young generation is crucial in supporting the city’s climate targets.

Two years ago, Leeds declared a climate emergency. This led to a wave of protests and policy changes. To meet the Paris Agreement, Leeds City Council set up an ambitious plan to become carbon neutral by 2030. Whilst public awareness of climate issues has increased, there is still a long road ahead. The young generation is crucial in supporting the city’s climate targets.

During the pandemic, positive progress has been made. In March, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, a cross institution partnership, was launched to improve the efficiency of joint action targets for reducing carbon emissions. It includes a wide range of organisations such as councils, businesses, and universities. The commission also has a duty to prepare for the impact of climate change, including planning for floods and heatwaves.

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There is also a heated discussion taking place over the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport. Many point out that the plans go against Leeds’ climate emergency declaration, as expanding the airport would cause an irreversible and expansive carbon footprint.

Whilst others recognise that it is important to expand the airport for economic purposes, this fails to consider how the plans will discourage public interest in committing to climate targets.

The debate will continue both locally and in the commission.

Leeds university has also committed to several projects which support climate action. As part of their sustainability strategy this year, they launched an online climate week, led by student executive officers, which aimed to encourage students to debate global climate issues and work closely with local organisations. The University also aims to improve its curriculum so that a greater focus is placed on sustainability and ensure there are student committee groups so that students can actively participate in climate action.

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Local schools have also been crucial in raising awareness of climate change for the next generation.

James, sustainable manager at Leeds University said: “We are fortunate to have a community of international students that can bring new perspectives and insights into how we should respond to the climate crisis. We want to ensure that these voices are heard and that our curriculum provides them with the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to help shape more equitable and sustainable world.”

Combatting the climate crisis is hugely important for Leeds residents from all walks of lives, even international students, for which I am one myself. Coming to Leeds from Asia made me realise just how important climate issues are. My friends’ enthusiasm for combatting the climate emergency has inspired me and many of my peers to make substantive changes in lowering our carbon footprint.

Whilst the climate emergency may be overwhelming for many, committing to local climate targets and making small changes to our everyday lives is crucial; young people across Leeds are key to making this change happen.