Emily Smith, a sixth former at Reading’s Kendrick School, was invited to speak at Reading Youth Cabinet’s climate debate on 31 January 2020, as the cabinet shifts their focus towards climate action and broader pro-environmental work in Reading.  

Her answers to questions put by the chair of the debate, ICN’s Associate Richard Usher, show how Emily’s interest and involvement in climate change and climate action stems from initial engagement with ICN’s Reading Climate Conference in 2018 (see here to read more about that conference).  She and other engaged students from Kendrick School sixth form then went on to make the opening speech at Reading Climate Change Partnership’s 3rd Strategy Day consultation, June 2019 (see here)

Kendrick sixth formers including Emily (second left) with Chris Beales, Chair of Reading Climate Change Partnership at their 3rd Strategy Day.

Excitingly, Emily together with James Streeter, ICN’s Executive Chair, have recently been part of a podcast to speak about getting involved in climate action – you can listen at here . Meanwhile, here are Emily’s reflections on that topic when interviewed at the Reading Youth Cabinet climate debate in January:

What inspired you to get involved in climate action?

My Geography teacher recommended that I attend an ICN Climate Change Conference with the school. The reading and debating that we did and the speeches that I listened to started my interest in climate change.

How did involvement with the UN-Style Climate Conference motivate or support you?

It gave me a much bigger interest in Climate change than I already had and inspired me to want to study it at University and go into research for my job. I changed from applying for an engineering degree to applying to a geography degree.

How do you feel young people can have more power/voice in advocacy roles on climate change and climate action?

I think that young people can get involved by joining their school’s eco-committee, or creating one if it doesn’t already exist. You can reduce your waste as a school and promote recycling, and maybe even plant trees or take part in a more long-term project. Additionally, if your school offers you a place, you could go to a Climate Change Conference where you can learn more, not only about our climate but about what other young people are doing.

What do you feel you’ve been able to achieve so far?

I am on my school’s eco-committee, and we are working towards becoming an eco-school. Additionally, through my role on the youth council I help am on the Reading Climate Action Network carbon committee, where we are focusing on helping to make Reading carbon neutral by 2030, 20 years before the rest of the country.

What has been more challenging? (In relation to climate action and could also be reflections on engaging the Youth Council)

Many people have a very specific view of someone that cares about the environment, or a climate activist, and it typically isn’t a positive one. People don’t always realise that this is something that we all need to be aware of and we all need to try and fix on our own small scale.

What do you like about your role on the Reading Youth Council?

I like that I can talk to the others on the youth cabinet about climate change, and what we can do as a group. It also means that I learn about what other schools do towards becoming more eco-friendly and different schools can give suggestions to each other.

What support do think you (and the Youth Council) will need in future?

I think that the Youth Cabinet may need more of a seat at the table in the discussions about climate change in Reading in the future. I have always searched out information and things that I can attend, but young people are such an important part in the future of our planet that we need to have a bigger input in these discussions now.