Engaging next generation on climate action

High school students from throughout the city will have the opportunity to express their concerns, ideas and climate aspirations as part of a Council program to engage the future leaders of Cairns in the development of policy and targets to address climate change.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said the Cairns Youth Climate Summit, which was endorsed by Council today, would give students a voice and, significantly, the chance to contribute to Council’s climate policy and actions for the next decade.

“We want to hear from the next generation of leaders and give them a platform to express their concerns, aspirations and hopes for the planet,” he said.

“Our youth are understandably worried about the planet’s future and the potential effects of climate change. “This forum will give them the chance to shape a Climate Statement for Cairns that will underpin Council’s new climate policy and actions in tackling the issue.”

This youth engagement complements Council’s support of initiatives and other programs such as the local Straw No More Campaign launched by school student Molly Steer, Holloways Beach Environmental Education Centre Science and Sustainability Student Enrichment Program, water and waste education programs, and funding of Nature-based Learning Grants.

Council has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its operations, and is on track to meet a 50% emissions reduction target (on 2007/08 levels) by 2020.

“With Council well on track to meet its 2020 emission reduction targets, it is important that we set new ambitious and financially responsible objectives for 2030,” Cr Manning said.

“As custodian of two heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest, we have a responsibility to take leadership on this issue and encourage state, national and international action.

“By engaging with the ideas and aspirations of young people, we can formulate responsible guidelines, which will help address climate concerns and safeguard the future economic viability of our city.”

The Cairns Youth Climate Summit will be held in October following the UN Youth Climate Summit, which will be held in New York on 21 September.

The Cairns Youth Climate Summit will involve high school students in the Cairns region, who will be engaged through a survey, followed by workshops. Representatives from each school will be invited to attend expert presentations and focus groups on key climate issues.

Student representatives will then be assisted to draft a Climate Statement which will help inform Council’s policies and actions from 2020 to 2030.

Council’s ongoing actions to support reduction in greenhouse gasses include:

  • The ongoing roll out of rooftop solar to Council buildings has boosted solar power generation to 1 megawatt, and this is soon to be complemented by the construction of ground-mounted solar at five Wastewater Treatment Plants to produce a further 1.7MW of energy annually.
  • Council is also investing in diverting waste from landfill, allocating $5.9 million this financial year to upgrade the Material Recovery Facility. The upgrade will increase processing capacity to 30,000 tonnes per year and boost the amount of waste diverted from landfill from 50-60% to 85-90%.
  • Council is on track to meet its 50% emissions reduction target for 2020 and is currently working on developing a new target for 2030 and updating its current Energy and Emissions Policy.

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