Developing Youth Climate Action

Our Development Assistant Emma Smith is a member of Manchester Climate Change Youth Board, a group of volunteer 16-25 year olds in Greater Manchester, representing the next generation. Our Environmental Team had a chat with her to find out more. 

Hi Emma, could you introduce yourself and your role at HOME:

My name is Emma and I work at HOME as Development Assistant. My role involves supporting my team in all things fundraising from our individual supporters, our corporate partners and applying to trusts and foundations for project support.

How did you get involved with the Climate Youth Board?

Very millennial – I saw a tweet! Not sure how, but it popped up on my feed and I thought it was interesting. I had been wanting to get involved more with climate action, because it is such a key thing at HOME, but also because I’ve always felt hopeless. I’d watch environmental documentaries and disasters on the news and feel a pit in my stomach. But the Youth Board provides me with a way to concentrate by efforts to do some good and be actively pushing for progress.

Why is carbon reduction and climate action important?

This answer might get a bit cliché, but we only have one Earth and it is in crisis. If we don’t take drastic action, we are really looking at a global disaster, much more catastrophic than COVID-19.

I was studying this topic in my science lessons at the age of 11. I am now 24 and the climate has gotten even worse because of years of inaction. We are running out of time, so that is why carbon reduction is important.

In Manchester specifically, we need to be the city to lead, as we have been so often in the past. We are the city that innovates and takes action. I know that if we come together, educate and implement effective policy, we can lower the carbon output in the city to zero by 2038. Sounds daunting, but if we don’t work towards this goal, will anything improve?

It will involve bringing together the whole of Manchester, including communities that might not be engaged, interested or are experiencing climate fatigue. That’s the goal of the Youth Board, to hold businesses and local politics to account, while bringing ALL Manchester residents into the fold for climate action.

What actions are you already taking?

I have reduced my intake of meat drastically. It was easy for me, as I haven’t always enjoyed eating meat anyway. I try not to buy any meat at home, but I’m easier on myself if I’m eating at restaurants. I also enrolled in a veg box, which sources local food from the UK (sometimes around the corner in Manchester) to some countries in Europe. I’m really aware of how far food can travel to get to us. I’m always looking at the labels in shops to see where the food is sourced from. It is depressing how far some tomatoes can travel – some of them are better travelled than me.

Aside from food purchases, I’m also trying to reduce my travel by car, train or plane. After some nudging from Debbie our Building & Environmental Manager at HOME, I now walk 30 mins to work! I know it sounds strange, but when I looked at my commute when I first started working at HOME (about a year ago), I never considered walking. In my head, I just automatically thought tram or train. It took someone nudging me to make the change. It shows how much you can influence people around you! I know the trams in Manchester are renewable electric energy, but walking is ultimately completely carbon free and better for me.

What does zero carbon Manchester look like to you?

This is really hard to say considering how far we are away from it. Right now, Manchester contributes 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 to the global mix every year and that equates to 5,700 tonnes every day. To be zero carbon will completely revolutionise how we live and work in the city.

To me, it really means the travel into and around the city has to change drastically. The amount of traffic we see on roads like Deansgate and Great Ancoats Street is atrocious. It pollutes the city and effects the health of those who choose to cycle or walk.

When you look at the big picture, a zero carbon Manchester looks more green, healthy and sustainable, with renewable energy, environmentally focussed construction, a focus on maintaining and protecting green spaces to encourage biodiversity. I think it is going to take a lot of work and change but sounds like a better future for the city than the one we are looking at right now.

Join the conversation @McrClimateYB