Lancaster’s Green MEP takes youth climate strikers to European Parliament in Brussels
A group of young climate campaigners made the trip to Brussels to see first hand how the European Parliament operates.
The group of 17 young people also had the chance to speak to other young activists from Belgium.
They were accompanied on the visit by Lancaster city councillor and North West Green MEP, Gina Dowding.
The trip was created due to the overwhelming interest in how European Parliament works, along with the role of MEPs and how Green MEPs in particular, are working to place climate action and climate justice at the very top of the parliamentary agenda.
The attendees all previously took part in student climate strikes or have actively campaigned on climate justice issues.
The group had a packed itinerary, from sitting in on committees, meeting other EU MEPs and NGOs to talk about climate action in the European Parliament and a tour and talk by parliament staff, to spending time with Belgian climate strikers, which was organised by Jan Steurs from the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG).
One of the attendees, Juliette Chandler, 18, from Morecambe, said: “I feel incredibly grateful to all the Green Party staff and MEPs who facilitated our visit to Brussels. It was so inspiring to see people from so many countries collaborating and learn about their work regarding climate change, as well as what they are hoping to achieve in the future.
“The most interesting part for me was talking to MEPs about their experiences, as well as watching part of a meeting of Greens-European Free Alliance. The visit has shown me the impact that our strikes and protests are having and inspired me to continue to campaign harder to prevent climate change.
“Talking to other young campaigners, from both Britain and Belgium, has taught me so much about their brilliant work and it was wonderful to spend time and have discussions with such a kind and thoughtful group of people.”
An attendee from Lancaster, Rosie Mills, 18, said: “I have never felt so incredibly impressed, but at the same time sad, as I have whilst visiting the European Parliament in Brussels.
“The building itself - the massive scale, the intense security, the modern architecture - and the people inside. I felt as if I was walking into a place of cooperation and compromise, which is so foreign to British politics but so incredibly needed.
“As a linguist myself, I was in awe at the fantastic translation services and 24 official languages.
“As a climate activist, it was amazing to hear from some of the Green/EFA MEPs how they thought the school strikes for climate were helping to bring climate change to the top of the European agenda.
“The passion and energy of the MEPs we heard from was inspiring and has encouraged me to continue the fight for climate action both on the street and with my vote. Similarly, on meeting Belgian youth strikers, despite the fact I felt intimidated by the size of their movement compared to my efforts in Lancaster, I was motivated to do more.
“This trip made me want to campaign to achieve a compromise when it comes to Brexit; preferably something that will help us young people remain European and able to fight alongside other young people across the world for real climate action.”
Millie Prosser, 27, from Lancaster, said: “Brussels was an inspiring political experience where over half of the MEPs we spoke to, all part of the Greens/European Federation Alliance group, were also activists.
“The message from them was clear: that our efforts protesting with recent youth climate strikes give them political leverage to forward the climate agenda.
“We were informed that the recent EU elections were named the climate elections and that the climate change issue has shot up the agenda in the European Parliament.
“It struck me that we were sitting in a real representative democracy where our actions as activists, protesting inaction on climate change, were genuinely impactful.
“We are being heard and we have a voice. It felt empowering to listen to German, Dutch and British MEPs fighting for climate action and vital systemic changes.
“The trip has motivated me to continue the work I am doing with climate activism and my work on the climate emergency movement. It has also encouraged me to ask for more, to demand true representation and democracy in Britain where compromise, collaboration and coalition can be regarded as the ideal. To allow us all to be heard instead of being left behind or divided, without a choice or a voice.”
Lily Mills, who is 17, travelled with her father from Lancaster to join the group.
She said: “I loved having the opportunity to travel to Brussels. Meeting with MEPs, other European parliament people and young climate activists really made the trip very informative and interesting.
“Hearing how the European Parliament works, and the ins and outs of it, really helped me to see how what we are doing with climate strikes fits into a bigger political picture
‘It was pleasantly surprising to learn from MEPs about how big an impact the young climate strikers have had on politics since the first strike in February.
“One of the MEPs explained how the May European elections have been referred to as The Climate Elections by some. They explained that the protests and subsequent changes in wider public opinion have led MEPs to prioritise climate and environmental issues.
“I was really inspired to hear this, it helps motivate me to keep going as we need to have even more impact.
“One of my favourite things was simply spending more time with local young activists, it was great to get to know people better so we can build a more connected community in the north west.”
Gina Dowding said: “I witnessed the motivation, dedication and energy of 17 climate strikers who came with me to Brussels. Their awareness and commitment to really pushing policy-makers, decision-makers, businesses and civil society to make change has really given hope and inspired me.”