Tuesday 5 March 2019 was Our Bright Future (OBF)'s reception in parliament - the big opportunity to take young people's opinions on the environment to the policy makers. At one O'Clock, there was a general hubbub of anticipation and chatter as we (myself Matthew, BGF programme manager Roy, and fellow BGF-ers Alice, Jess and Rosemary) talked over lunch to participants of the other OBF projects, letting the time pass before the reception. I found out about the Vision England and the Ulster Wildlife programmes. Once the sandwiches, fruit and crisps (no meat in sight!) had been demolished, the OBF crew headed over to Portcullis House, went through the heavy security and wandered into the heart of government.
Standing by the reception's UK stand, there was just time for BGF-ers past and present to pose for a photo before the British political elite began filing in. First stop for BGF was Ian Liddell-Grainger MP who was said he was very impressed by the project. Next I spoke to a representative from NCS, telling her about BGF and asking how much of a role the environment plays in NCS. Then it was the interval and time to hear from Rushanara Ali MP (the host of the event), Peter Ainsworth (Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund which funds BGF) as well as two young people - former BGF-er Amelia and a passionate Dara from Ulster Wildlife.
After the break it was back to mingling, where the likes of Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas and Lord Randall appeared at various points in the afternoon. I soon spotted my two local MPs, Ken Clarke and Nicky Morgan, arriving (awkwardly at the same time!) and while Nicky explored the other projects, I took Ken outside for a discussion.
I told him what I'd been doing on BGF, particularly my local project, which soon moved into a general conversation on the sustainability challenges we face. It was fascinating to get Ken's insight on this and 2 clear views of his came across. Firstly, that he believes the public will for sorting out climate change is there but that members of the public must be prepared to make changes to their own lifestyles in order to bring about the required change (he used the example of the fuel tax in France recently). Secondly, that while protesting against Climate Change gives a clear message about what we don't want, it says little about what we do want. So he'd like to hear about more specific asks and the steps to achieving the overall aim.
After we'd also discussed implementation now being the priority over awareness and the opportunities for British businesses that the emerging environmental market will open up, Jess and Alice, 2 of the other BGF-ers there, joined the conversation and they too described their BGF experience, alongside a few other Our Bright Future participants.
As Nicky Morgan was leaving the main reception I managed to grab a few words with her, but not before experiencing a bit of politics live as her, Ken and another MP discussed some political business. I told her about BGF too, as well as repeating some of my messages about implementation and opportunities.
However I did find it difficult to bring the conversations around to asks. I had some personal ones in mind, while Our Bright Future also had 3 for the event. In spite of that I hope the MPs I spoke with got a general impression about the passion of young people for preventing climate change and that I perhaps planted some seeds.
Overall, it was a great experience and a very cool day, so thank you to the BGF and OBF teams for the opportunity. I just hope we were listened to.
Bright Green Future is a FREE year-long environmental training programme for 14-17 year olds which aims to give you the tools, knowledge and skills to make change and empower you to do the things that really matter. Through Bright Green Future you can learn about the most effective ways to fight climate change, gain confidence and meet loads of like-minded young people.
Applications for our new 2019 cohort are OPEN NOW Click here to apply.