There is still a stigma in taking children’s views seriously, despite them having to deal with the consequences of political decision-making, the Oireachtas climate committee has heard.
Young people from the Children and Young People’s Assembly, which had six key messages formulated for policymakers to consider following their first gathering last year, told TDs and senators that they want their voices to count in combating biodiversity and climate change.
Some 35 children and teenagers were assembled from 500 would-be participants for the historic first such assembly in October 2022.
It aimed to inform the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, which was tasked by the Oireachtas with examining how the State can improve its response to the increasingly worrying issue of biodiversity loss.
The members of the assembly came up with 58 calls to action across seven themes, including education and awareness raising, governance, restoring and rewilding, habitat and species protection, energy and transport, overexploitation, and waste and consumption.
Assembly member Niamh, who is 17, told TDs and senators at the Oireachtas climate committee that there is still a skepticism and stigma around listening to young people.
Flanked by fellow assembly members Conor, Oisín, Elsie, Eleanor, and David, she said: “They think we are inexperienced and that we possibly don’t really know what we are talking about. Education is key there and we have proved that through the assembly.
“You are all sitting here today with 58 calls to action in front of you, that are actually going to be acted upon, a first in this country. The way we can expand that and keep it going is by having more of those assemblies on a regular basis and making them available to everyone.
“It is the only way we are going to inspire our youth, getting them involved and telling them their voice actually matters. They are the future and there is no way forward if they are not part of it. If they are the ones who are going to have to live with this, they should have a say in what is actually going to happen.”