“414 days ago when Greta Thunburg went on strike no one could have predicted how massive this has become” said Alistar Wall, Deputy Youth MP at the Bristol City Youth Council at the recent West of England conference of the growing movement of young people trying to raise awareness of the ongoing climate emergency.  Wall continued, and described the crisis as the “one issue that affects every aspect of our lives.” He chastised the government for a lack of ambition in their targets, suggesting that the UK should be net carbon negative by 2050 to be a world leader and “at least reverse the damage it has caused.” 

The lack of action to reduce waste was also of concern to Wall, who cited a 2017 study that showed only 45.7% of household waste was recycled.  He further saw inaction on government efforts to reduce single use plastics, seeing them as “naught but piecemeal.” Wall drew attention to the extent of global waste as only 9% of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled.

Wall also spoke forcefully in the need to change in attitudes of consumer culture “From a consumptive presumption, to a sustainable circular future.”  Despite this, he also decried the tendency for discussions of environmentalism to focus on individualised solutions to the wider issue, he said: “We have spent decades pushing the burden of systematic errors on to the individual, it’s not the general public who are failing, it’s government, big business, industry and those with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry who have failed the planet since the mid-1800s.” 

The usage of fossil fuels in electricity generation is currently 30% of total energy production in the UK. The importance of phasing this out was highlighted by Wall who touted the UK’s “potential to generate 100% of our electricity from renewables resources.” Wall suggested the UK and particularly Scotland’s huge potential for off-shore wind and also said that “We have the potential to 100% of our electricity from renewable resources.” In recent years wind has emerged as the most cost effective form of energy generation and makes up around half of the UK total energy production from renewables.

The need for global action was also highlighted by Wall, who said that “If the UK reduces it’s emissions to zero, global emissions will reduce by a grand total of 1%.” He spoke of the responsibility of developed  nations to lead on climate change: “Richer countries who have been emitting carbon for far longer for any other, to need help less well-off regions.” 

Wall gave advice to developers to incorporate these concerns, telling delegates to “work through the lens of sustainability” and question “Is it carbon neutral? Is it zero waste? If the answer is no, how can you make it yes as soon as possible”. The deputy youth MP ended his speech with a strong message for attendees: “Let’s not wait until next week, next month or next year, let’s act now and guarantee a future for us all.”