News ID: 252977
Published: 0821 GMT May 18, 2019

Pupils: What are you doing about climate change?

Pupils: What are you doing about climate change?

Of the thousands of people who blocked central London to demand action on climate change at the Extinction Rebellion protests last month, it was 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg who stood out as the movement’s figurehead.

Meetings with the political elite in Westminster and Brussels have followed for Greta, shaming politicians for their failure to act, wrote.

And last week children at Potters Gate School in Farnham took up her mantle, demanding to know what foreign secretary and town MP Jeremy Hunt was doing to tackle the issue.

Year four pupils at the town-center school wrote to Hunt in March after reading a Herald article about Farnham’s pollution problems. And last Friday the cabinet minister responded — spending 40 minutes answering their questions.

The children were wonderfully straight to the point and sure enough, the knockout question soon arrived: “What are you going to do about Farnham’s air pollution?”

Responding, the MP for South West Surrey said “we’ve all got to try to do more”, asking the children how many of them go in their parents’ cars at the weekend — to which all put their hands up.

He added politicians needed to start looking at changing the law “to force people to do more”, continuing: “The country has made a lot of progress, and pollution and emissions are coming down. But the London protests reminded us we’ve got to do much better.”

Other questions related to air travel and housing, with another sharp questioner asking: “Why are we allowing more houses to be built when there is so much pollution in the air?”

Hunt said the government “wants to be fair to young people who want to buy their first home”, and responding to another question on building flats instead of houses, added: “In an area like ours, surrounded by lovely parks and countryside, we will have to build up higher if we want to keep our green spaces.”

Hunt told the Herald: “The difference between children and John Humphreys is that the children aren’t trying to catch you out — but actually they are much better at catching you out because you can never predict what they are going to ask!

“What I think is so inspiring is they are so passionate about the future, and really care about pollution — they are a smart lot at Potters Gate!”

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