Young people from all over the UK are coming together to organise a Youth Environmental Conference. It will take place at Manchester Metropolitan University on 23 -4 November [website here]. The gathering is one of over 50 happening around the world, and will feed into the International Climate Change talks (COP25) taking place in Chile from 2-13 December.
Conference of Youths, COY, normally happen in each host country right before the UNFCCC climate change talks, but this year, Local Conferences of Youth, LCOY’s are taking place all around the world, including the UK, to amplify the voices of youth on climate action.
George, from the organising committee kindly provided the following answers to questions.
This is the first local “COY” in the UK – how does this build on previous work by UKYCC and other groups?
The UKYCC has been an active organising group in the UK for several years now, with a network of contacts both across the UK and internationally. The organisation has led on multiple campaigns such as Systems Change (Anti-Fracking in the UK), Youth Strikes and most recently, developing Community Working Groups to support local environmental education and create a network of sustainability ambassadors that will provide young people who have been invested in the Climate Strikes, a platform to channel that passion. Many of our UKYCC members also attend several international conferences, such as the COP, to ensure that we can contribute to the fight for global climate justice. So, as you can see, the first Local Conference of Youth in the UK has an impressive array of young environmentalists at the helm who know exactly how to engage young people in the most prevalent issue of our time.
Traditional conferences are very much dominated by speeches/panels and then a question and answer session which tends to be dominated by the most confident/best-informed/loudest. Doubtless the organisers of this conference are both very aware of this problem and have a plan to minimise the problem- what other formats will attendees of the conference be exposed to?
The LCOY is all about engaging young people and platforming their voice in the fight for our planet. Whilst we have key note talks and panel discussions, much of our conference will be interactive workshops that will not only educate delegates but allow them to put forward thoughts and challenge ideas. Also, the LCOYUK isn’t simply a conference you attend and then leave; for the duration of the event we will be creating a policy document entirely supported by the voices of our delegates. We hope that the LCOYUK policy document will go onto influence other campaigns/initiatives and eventually lead our networks towards the COY 2020 that will be held in Glasgow next year.
Given, again, that these sorts of conferences tend to be achingly middle-class and pretty white, what are the active steps in place for people from other backgrounds to attend. So, for example, are there travel bursaries for people who couldn’t otherwise afford to come. If so, how can people apply?
We’re ensured that accessibility to the first LCOYUK is our biggest priority. As our demographic is young people, we understand that there are variable factors that could prevent people from attending. We have committed to providing free tickets to a number of delegates who may not be able to attend otherwise due to financial barriers. These are on a limited basis as we are a grassroots organisation, but for further information, all interested parties have to do is contact our LCOYUK email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We also acknowledge that the LCOYUK cannot be simply centred around climate change education and activism, but instead highlight the challenges that currently face the movement. Friends of the Earth will be joining us on the Sunday to host a session titled, ‘The Environment and Race’ whilst representatives from the University of Nottingham will kick start the conference on the Saturday with a workshop on “Climate Change and Modern-Day Racism”. We want to ensure the necessary conversations are made across the conference to certify all voices are platformed in the climate change movement.
Will any portions of the conference be live-streamed, or recorded so people who can’t be there for the weekend can still participate, or see what was talked about?
Unfortunately, the conference will not be livestreamed or videoed. As this is the first LCOY in the UK, we have had limited resources to expand further than what we have already committed too. Although, documentation and materials will be circulated after the LCOYUK, with general updates and information available on our website (https://lcoyuk.wixsite.com/lcoy) and on our social media platforms (@LCOYUK).
Will there be sessions about handling emotions (especially grief, fear. despair and anger), since these seem to be – understandably! – bubbling away under the surface?
Of course – eco anxiety is something affecting young people more and more. All our workshops are built to engage, support and empower young people. Whilst education is fundamental, we want our delegates to leave understanding that their contribution is significant and that change is coming. Several of our sessions touch upon activism groups and network structures that will support our delegates to address their concerns. At the LCOYUK, we have also created a safe Wellbeing Space which can be accessed throughout the duration of the conference, in case any individual feels overwhelmed at any point.
Is there a session on campaigning on local authorities and climate emergency declarations (how to get a council to make one, what to do when they make it and then do nothing about it)
The LCOYUK has an entire theme/strand dedicated to climate change activism and we are making a conscious effort to ensure that local lobbying is as much of a focal point as national campaigning. We’re proud to say that we have organisations such as The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and People and Planet who will be running activism and campaign planning workshops throughout the two-day conference. Many of which are focused on lobbying your local MP and engaging your council.
How old is the upper limit for ‘youth’?
Currently we identify anyone under the age of 35 as a youth.
Anything else you like to say.
We’re extremely proud to be hosting the first LCOYUK in Manchester. It’s history in activism, the city’s diversity and the vast student community that spans every corner of the city made it a sought-after location for our conference. After the climate strikes, the XR rebellions and other protests many young people have asked, “What’s Next?” The LCOYUK is next. Help us create a network of inspiring young activists and empower our communities to take action for global climate justice.