THE CLIMATE emergency is happening now and Shetland Islands Council, among many others, needs to take urge and decisive action in response to it.
That was the message of Anderson High School students Isla Johnson, Laura Bisset and Celestine Verdcourt-Laurenson who are all members of the Eco Youth Shetland group which organised the youth climate strike at the end of June.
Giving a presentation to Monday’s meeting of the council’s education and families committee, they urged councillors to speed up environmental efforts such as reducing waste, better recycling, more renewable energy and greener ways of transport.
They said they would like to see more recycling opportunities such as recycling bins in schools and in public areas, more materials to be recycled, greener houses and council buildings, smart energy solutions and investment in hydrogen ferries.
Laura Bisset said young people were concerned about climate change and cared deeply for the environment.
“It is very serious everywhere but us in Shetland are quite lucky because as a community we can all work together try finding solutions to the problems,” she said.
“The responses we got back from young people to a recent survey have been incredible; everyone cares so much. I think we all now need to see a change.”
Responding to the presentation council chief executive Maggie Sandison said the pupils had been raising important issues and assured them that the islands’ recycling efforts would see a marked improvement over coming months.
Recycling bins for schools are coming soon, she said, adding that the council’s first priority had always been to complete the separation shed that is currently being built at Rova Head.
Contrary to local gossip the council did not collect recyclable materials and then burn it, she insisted. “We have focused on the waste that can be and is recycled,” she said.
The pupils also received an assurance from director of children services, Helen Budge, to have a meeting arranged with the schools’ catering manager to discuss ways of further reducing the use of plastic in school canteens.
Speaking after the council meeting, Laura Bisset said they had been invited to the meeting in response to the work they had done before.
Isla Johnson added: “Working on reducing plastics in schools is the next big issue we are trying to tackle, as well as getting more young people involved in coming up with some different solutions that we can bring to the council.
“When the council rolled our its home recycling scheme I think they were making a big change already.
“They were talking about rolling out recycling to council buildings and the streets of Lerwick, so I think they are already moving in the right direction to resolving the plastic waste issue.
Committee chairman, councillor George Smith, said he and his colleagues were not just impressed by the quality of the presentation but also by the fact that the pupils had already many of the answers they would like the council to take on board.
“That gave us an opportunity and real optimism that we can have continued dialogue with young people and others,” he said.
“There is no doubt that there is a climate emergency. This is about making sure that if such an emergency is being declared by the council it has clear plans in terms of how to address the issues that the emergency presents.”