Welsh election 2021: 'Empower young people to save Wales' beauty'

By Catherine Evans
BBC News

Published
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionWales is known for its beautiful landscapes, say the campaigners

Young climate activists are calling on their peers to use their vote to "amplify and empower the youth voice".

Two members of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales said if politicians did not listen to young voters "they could be out of a job".

They added that it would change the perception of young people as "naughty, immature or not as knowledgeable".

Shenona Mitra, 17, from Bangor, and Poppy Stowell-Evans, 16, from Newport, said the impact of young activists like Greta Thunberg had fuelled the passion of other young people to campaign for the environment.

They said it had also put climate change on the agenda of world leaders who now had no choice but to listen to their younger voters.

image copyrightShenona Mitra
image captionAt only 17, Shenona Mitra is helping to influence political leaders on climate change

Shenona, who is vice-chair of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales and plans to study medicine, said: "For quite a long time the youth voice has been overlooked. The youth voice is extremely important, not only do we bring a new perspective, but I believe we're also a lot more engaged than people would believe.

"With issues like climate change, I think it's even more important to involve the youth voice because this is something that will affect future generations, my generation, more than it will affect older people."

The apolitical group of 12 climate change activists is supported by charity Size of Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA).

They have already taken part in a mock United Nations climate change conference and have drawn up their own manifesto with six key focus points, including deforestation.

image copyrightPoppy Stowell-Evans
image captionPoppy Stowell-Evans has been involved in activism from a young age

Chair of the group Poppy, who is a member of the Labour Party, said the effect of giving teenagers like her the vote could be "monumental".

"If all young people register to vote, we can have a massive influence on this election. It will give politicians an opportunity to realise how important it is to focus on young people's issues and how important it will be to talk about things like climate change," she said.

"The older generation almost fear the voice of young people. It's really easy to use young people as a scapegoat and not focus on all the amazing things that young people are doing."

She added: "When I found out I could vote I was so excited. By voting, politicians respect our say. Ultimately, if you're not passing policies that appeal to young people, you could be out of a job.

"We're going to influence this election massively."

For the first time about 70,000 16 and 17-year-olds in Wales will be eligible to vote when the polls open on 6 May.

However, figures gathered by the Election Reform Society (ERS) suggest fewer than 9,000 were registered in six counties as of Friday - the deadline to do so is Monday.

As part of their debates, Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales regularly examines the prospect that Wales as the "green, green grass of home" could one day be no more.

"When I think of Wales, I think of this massive green space, so deforestation would be disastrous for this country," said Shenona.

"I can't imagine growing up in a Wales that wasn't so green and that didn't have forests everywhere. Future generations could live in some barren land with burned-down trees everywhere. Wales is also lucky enough to have a massive range of wildlife and we don't want to lose that biodiversity."

image captionThe group are fighting to save Wales' forests for future generations

She added that young people now had the potential to initiate real change by influencing those in power.

"I'm really grateful to be in this generation because we're finally making a big impact. We've seen the impact it can have with youth activists like Greta Thunberg.

"It's so crucial that we start acting now. Young people have this power to get leaders and decision makers really aware.

Leaders debate: If you would like to be part of the virtual audience for the BBC Wales Election 2021 Leaders Debate on 29 April, please email us your details to waleslive@bbc.co.uk.

The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have made people more aware and more protective of the world around them, said the teenagers.

"Once we're forced to stay in one place, we start to really appreciate the beauty," said Shenona.

Poppy said she was worried about "a lack of urgency" when it came to climate change.

"Our wildlife and our nature are things we love, but if sea levels rise and eventually those places are flooded, we're not going to be able to go to them, or if we're at a point where we can't enjoy our landscapes because they've been tarnished by the effects of litter or fossil fuels, it's going to have a massive impact.

"If we don't fix it now then ultimately a lot of how we see Wales and a lot of the things we love aren't going to be able to survive, which is quite scary.

"As Welsh citizens we have a duty, not just for ourselves, but for the world."

What do the Welsh political parties say they'll do about the environment?

Welsh Labour

  • Create jobs across Wales with green energy, environmental protections and tourism
  • Abolish the use of the most littered single-use plastics
  • Create a National Forest for Wales, for the benefits of equality and mental health as well as the environment

Welsh Conservatives

  • Introduce a Clean Air Act to cut pollution and reduce the incidence of respiratory disease
  • Ban single-use plastics for non-medical use such as plastic wet wipes, straws, stirrers, disposable cups and cotton buds, as well as creating a drinks deposit return scheme
  • Ensure Wales meets net-zero carbon emissions target by 2040

Plaid Cymru

  • Set a Wales-wide mission to generate 100% of electricity and reach zero emissions by 2035
  • Introduce a Nature Act with statutory targets to restore biodiversity by 2050
  • Commit to providing good quality and safe green space within a five-minute walk of all Welsh households

Green Party

  • Ensuring carbon emission reduction targets are met at the scale and pace needed, as demanded by the science
  • Deliver a Green vision for net zero by 2030, replace fossil fuels with onshore and offshore renewable energy and make necessary upgrades to the electricity grid
  • Appoint a new Welsh Government Commissioner for Biodiversity and Animal Protection to reverse the decline of biodiversity
  • Propose a bill to ban single-use plastic and legislation to progressively reduce all non-recyclable packaging waste

Reform UK

  • No environment-specific policy specified before manifesto launch

Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party

  • No environment-specific policy specified before manifesto launch

Welsh Liberal Democrats

  • Tackle pollution and clean up the air we breathe with a Clean Air Act in the first 100 days
  • Reward farming schemes that reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon retention through a new sustainable payment system
  • Reform planning to promote the idea of "20-minute communities", reducing the use of cars and ensuring that all communities have access to biodiverse green spaces

UKIP Wales

  • Oppose any new taxes on everyday human activity such as petrol and diesel vehicle usage, travel, farming and other industrial activity
  • Scrap all subsidies for so-called "green" energy projects which transfer money from taxpayers to "already rich environmental chancers"
  • Oppose all wind and solar farms "as these desecrate the Welsh landscape and are costly and unreliable"
  • Continue to champion the growth of British farming, fishing, food safety and animal welfare standards
  • Push ahead with a post-Brexit ban of live animal exports for slaughter

Propel

  • Establish a Welsh national energy company, majority owned by the Welsh Government and local authorities, for conventional extraction of Wales' known gas reserves to replace use of imported gas
  • Cheaper energy supply to be used to support local employment in key strategic industries, including steel and manufacturing
  • Create a Sovereign Wealth Fund with the revenue generated to achieve long-term energy independence through investment in renewable energy
  • Utilise Welsh universities to become a world leader in carbon capture and storage technology
  • Reject the building of any nuclear reactors and veto any attempts for nuclear material produced outside Wales from being stored or dumped in the country

A modern browser with JavaScript and a stable internet connection is required to view this interactive. More information about these elections

Note: This lookup covers national elections in Scotland and Wales, the Hartlepool by-election, as well as council and mayoral elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. There may be parish council elections or council by-elections where you are. Check your local council website for full details. Last updated: May 11, 2021, 12:35 GMT

How do I register to vote?

If you are not already registered, you have until 23:59 on 19 April to sign up. You need to visit the government website and fill in the online form.

You can apply by post if you prefer.

If you are not sure whether you are registered, you can get in touch with your local council's election team.

WALES ELECTION: THE BASICS

What's happening? On 6 May, people will vote to elect 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs). The party that can command the support of a majority of MSs will form the Welsh government. Find out more here.

What powers does the Senedd have? MSs pass laws on aspects of life in Wales such as health, education and transport - and have some tax powers.

Who can vote? Anyone who lives in Wales, is registered to vote and aged 16 or over on 6 May is eligible. You can register to vote online.

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