Dev Sharma, 17, recently became one of the youngest to speak from the Despatch Box at the House of Commons in London, where he raised the pressing issue of climate change. The Youth MP for Winchester in Hampshire, as part of the UK Youth Parliament organisation made up of democratically elected members aged between 11 and 18, joined around 250 fellow Youth MPs from across the UK invited to debate topics related to health in the Commons chamber last month. The debate was watched over by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as the young activists called for greater action to tackle climate change and other pressing issues of the day.
Here Dev shares his motion entitled ‘Environment and Health’:
A third of Pakistan flooded.
Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years.
The Philippines hammered.
The whole of Cuba in black-out.
And here, in the UK, gas prices have delivered a brutal reminder that no country and no economy is immune from the climate crisis.
Almost undoubtedly, you have heard that WE, or humanity, is to blame for climate change.
So, let’s clarify WE did not cause the current climate disaster, but WE are facing the health effects.
When only 100 firms account for 71 per cent of the industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 and the richest 1 per cent of the world's population generates more than twice the amount of carbon emissions as the world's poorest 50 per cent. The climate catastrophe was not brought on by us. It was caused by SYSTEMS.
Simply placing the blame on all people allows the top 1 per cent, these corporations, and our governments to avoid taking real accountability.
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Even if we may not have started this catastrophe, WE MUST be the ones to resolve it. We'll demand answers from the producers of fossil fuels. We'll oppose the status quo. Because WE are the ones to build new worlds, where people can breathe free, and don’t face floods and destitution because of where they live.
Where the quality of people lives is not determined by decided by where they live but the fact they are human beings, Change is not passive. It comes from all of us. It comes from collective action. Because when we come together, we win.
We have the chance to join the shared objective of creating a safer stable future for our people and the planet on which we depend.
To our adult counterparts that sit in this room, enough is enough. We look at you and ask why we don’t have clean air to breathe, why huge parts of the world have drowned, why you don't act. Please protect the air we breathe, the food that we eat, the water we drink and the hopes and dreams that sustains our lives. Don't vote for division, don't vote for distraction, don't vote for doom, don't be judged by the future generation for depriving them of a habitable planet.
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Youth MPs, Yes, yes you've heard this all before but this time there’s a lot more to come. Let’s continue our aim of lobbying our mps and acting for our constituents and let’s make environment and health our national campaign.
Dev Sharma is an MP for Winchester in the UK Youth Parliament, social campaigner and award-winning activist.