Our climate moment is now

This week a 14 year old in Haringey showed politicians how climate change is defining the lives of young people, and why we must act now.

I was delighted to take part in the launch of the 100% London campaign recently, where the candidates for Mayor were challenged to pledge that London will be powered entirely by green, renewable energy by 2050. I’ve signed the pledge and if you want to urge other politicians to follow me, please sign their petition.

This week, with the Paris COP21 talks in progress, I spoke alongside three of our excellent London Assembly candidates, Stephen Taylor, Ronald Stewart and Samir Jeraj at a North London-wide meeting organised by Haringey Greens. It was ably chaired by Bruce Kent and we watched special messages from Caroline Lucas MP and Green MEP Keith Taylor in Brussels. I gave a speech setting out how London has lost leadership on climate change and what I would do to make us the most inspiring major city in the world at creating the secure future we need.

But amongst all of us politicians, the real star of the evening was a 14 year old: Safi Jenkins was one of three local party members (including Jarelle Francis, also pictured with me above) who had been asked to outline their ‘climate change moment’ – the point when they started to realise climate action was essential.

Her contribution was brilliant and very moving, and I was so impressed with how Safi spoke that I’ve got her permission to reproduce her words in full here. Everyone should read them and I truly hope that the people in Paris listen to her generation as they finish their negotiations!

When I was given the chance to speak today, I was excited to share my thoughts on the subject of climate change. There was so much I could say. But then I had my brief: my climate change moment – I was stuck. I couldn’t think of a moment. How could there be a single, distinguishable moment?

Then I realised that for my generation, that’s the point. There was no moment. There was no moment because teenagers have always lived with climate change, and people my age don’t know any different. The majority of the people in this room were born into a world where climate change was a threat. But for us the threat is a reality; It is now the most significant issue facing our planet.

When we think about climate change I believe that many of my peers would think about the obvious things like rising sea levels, melting ice caps and greenhouse gasses. These buzz words and all this science shouldn’t distance young people from seeing climate change as reality, as something that is happening now. We are sprinting towards a world where all these issues become even more noticeable things that change the way we live day-to-day.

I read something recently about a group of teenagers bringing a law suit against the state of Oregon, as a means of forcing them to take more aggressive action on climate change. I found this funny but actually they have a valid point. We do have a right to a healthy planet, to not have to suffer the consequences of the actions of people here before us. I’m not planning to sue anyone so instead, I will say this.

I couldn’t think of a climate change moment in the negative sense so I hope that my moment is in the future, within my lifetime, which is possible, when I am able to see that real, drastic action has been taken and that there is a positive difference to the world we are living in. That will be my climate change moment.