Oxford City Council announced plans to host a youth climate summit as early as this autumn, as one of the commitments made by the council’s response to last year’s Citizens Assembly on Climate Change
The overarching aim of the youth summit is to co-design a platform with young climate action leaders to engage in discussion about their future, identify actions young people themselves can take, and look at how they can use their influence to find city-wide solutions to the global climate emergency.
Young people in the city will be invited to contribute their ideas about the design and the specific focus of the summit. Depending on the input of Oxford’s young contributors, the design is expected to include presentations from experts, workshops, and Q&A sessions. Building on the experiences of hosting a Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the Council will consider the summit’s recommendations to guide its approach to how it works with others to achieve a zero carbon Oxford.
As tomorrow’s Youth Climate Strike shows there is real passion and commitment from young people in Oxford to addressing climate issues. The Youth Climate Summit aims to give young people a platform to discuss the issues, access to expert knowledge, and the opportunity to make their voices heard to policy makers, businesses and organisations in the city.
Last year’s Citizens Assembly was opened by Oxford youth climate activist Linnet Drury and the Assembly itself included several youth participants. Oxford’s Youth Climate Summit will be a step-change: it will be an opportunity for young people to co-design the summit and themselves lead the conversation.
The council will seek to involve a diverse range of participants and viewpoints from all parts of the city. The intention is to involve both young people who are already active in the climate debate, and those who so far have not been involved. The council is working through its Youth Ambition team to make sure voices that too often go unheard in key debates are included as summit participants.
The current expectation is that the event will take place in November around the timeframe that Conference of Parties (COP) 26 climate change summit was to have been hosted in Glasgow. It will take the form of a digital event, due to coronavirus restrictions. A physical event would not be possible this year, and the council wants to avoid the same delay in providing this important forum as has affected the UN COP26. In addition, by hosting the summit online, greenhouse gas emissions can be kept to an absolute minimum and a wider range of participants will be made possible.
As with the Citizens Assembly, it is expected that participants will want to remain engaged with the local issues, become spokespeople for the climate debate, and will be kept up to date by the council on climate change issues. It is also hoped that international voices can be brought into the summit, potentially through international aid organisations, reflecting the inspiring input provided to the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change by War on Want.
“Climate breakdown can feel big, global, and overwhelming. Young people who will be most affected by our climate crisis can particularly feel disempowered. We want Oxford’s younger citizens to take matters into their own hands, tell us how they want us to run their summit, and use the summit to share ideas and come up with fixes.
“The focus will not simply be on young people from Oxford. We want to unite young people in Oxford and countries affected by the climate crisis through our virtual summit. We want Oxford’s younger people to feel more confident having climate conversations with older generations and asking for urgent action which protects them from the brunt of a changing climate.
“The United Nations may have needed to postpone their pivotal climate summit, but there can be no putting off the urgent need for climate action in 2020. The science tells us emissions must peak this year if we want to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Around the time that world leaders would have gathered in Glasgow this year to combat climate change, Oxford’s youth will unite to make a difference.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford