Martin Offiah MBE, Councillor Ashraf, Councillor Carpenter, Councillor Achilleos and young people from Goresbrook School at Youth Climate Summit

East London council hosts first climate crisis summit for young people

Children and young people in Barking and Dagenham came together at a rousing climate crisis summit this week to learn more about environmental challenges and voice passionate views on what should happen to protect the planet for future generations. 

180 young people from across 31 schools, learned more about the council’s Carbon Neutral Roadmap, which seeks to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030, two decades ahead of the UK's overall target. 

The summit was divided into two sessions for primary and secondary schools, each beginning with a virtual introduction from Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of the council. He urged the young people to raise their voices and tell the council what they'd like to happen in the future before introducing Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership & Engagement, who addressed the youngsters with a motivational speech at the event. 

The young people heard from other guest speakers and participated in interactive consultation sessions with them in an inspiring event facilitated by VotesforSchools at Jo Richardson Community School.

“Our message to young people is clear: get your voices heard, hold adults to account and be ambitious about changing the world. We’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Former England rugby star Martin Offiah MBE, brand ambassador for electric vehicle infrastructure, charging and connectivity company Connected Kerb, energised the audience with an uplifting speech and took time to listen to the pupils’ views and ideas.

Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Education and School Improvement and Councillor Andrew Achilleos, Member Champion for Climate Change, also gave impassioned speeches.  

Pupils discussed topics including waste, recycling, energy conservation and pollution. And they each received special reusable goodie bags to take home with them, courtesy of energy giant E.On and Connected Kerb, who sponsored the summit. 

Young people in Barking and Dagenham have experienced the impact of global warming right on their doorsteps in recent years. Residents in the borough have witnessed unprecedented levels of rain, snow, heatwaves, severe flooding and even a mini-tornado last summer. And they had plenty of ideas about what could be done to help, from 'non-car days' to banning the use of plastic entirely and organising more community litter picks to planting trees at school.

As part of its commitment to being a greener borough, the council declared a climate emergency in 2020 and has introduced a range of measures to help reduce its carbon footprint and create a green borough, including increasing recycling rates and launching the Cleaner, Greener Barking and Dagenham campaign.

Councillor Saima Ashraf said: "This was a fantastic first climate summit, and our young people proved once again why they’re our best asset in promoting a greener borough.

"We owe it to our kids and grandkids to act on the climate crisis and listening to them is an important first step. 

“Our message to young people is clear: get your voices heard, hold adults to account and be ambitious about changing the world. We’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Councillor Evelyn Carpenter added: "It was a marvellous event, and we all learnt a great deal.

"My thanks go to the education team, schools, sponsors, speakers and Jo Richardson Community School for their work in making this inspiring event possible.

"Education can play a huge part in creating a better, safer world for our children and future generations."