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Citizens’ climate jury suggests youth ‘Attenborough Award’ and imported meat tax

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

An “Attenborough Award” to inspire children on the environment and taxing imported and high-carbon meat are among the proposals from a citizens’ jury on climate change.

The group of 23 people who live in Tees Valley and County Durham also outlined ways to make their area greener, including schemes to reuse old mineshafts as sources for heating homes and install renewables on old industrial areas.

It is the first of four citizens’ juries across the UK, along with South Wales, Thurrock and Aberdeenshire, who will be feeding into think tank IPPR’s cross-party Environmental Justice Commission.

The group, who ranged in age from 16 to 75, spent more than 20 hours in online sessions quizzing experts, and then discussing options for their local area and nationwide recommendations.

They called for the UK to increase the amount it is spending to address the climate and nature crises, with an annual long-term commitment from Government on how much it intends to invest in tackling the climate crisis.

Companies should pay their fair share, including closing tax loopholes and carbon taxes targeted at the biggest polluters with the money ringfenced for tackling the climate and nature crises, they added.

There should also be green bonds to raise finance, which should be available to ordinary people as well as big businesses, and should be done on a local level where possible so people can have a say in investment in their area.

An Attenborough Scholarship scheme could encourage young people into low-carbon jobs, or an Attenborough Award similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award but which starts at primary school to help raise awareness of nature and climate.

A “National Nature Service” could also provide work and volunteering opportunities, the group said, and there should be a national tree-planting campaign and green spaces and wildlife should be protected.

Another suggestion from the group is to consider taxing imported and high-carbon meat, with the funds raised going back to farmers, and there should be incentives to buy UK produce because it tends to have higher standards, and people should be encouraged to eat alternative sources of protein, with plant-based foods made cheaper.

In their region, the group said, clean energy jobs and greener industrial practices should be prioritised, including investing in hydrogen, infrastructure for heating water in mine shafts for homes and renewables – with disused land used for wind and solar sites.

And there must be support for education, reskilling and retraining for workers in existing industries and older people, they added.

The jurors said the response to the climate and nature crises needed to be “swift and decisive, clear and consistent”, with lifelong learning on the environment starting in schools and then in communities.

Action on climate should increase equality in society, while local people should be involved and areas need to create their own plans to make sure the shift to a low-carbon economy is fair, with resources to see the plans through, they said.

One juror, Brian, a chemical industry worker from Stockton-on-Tees, said: “We need actions to be fair.

“We need everyone to be involved, and people will only be involved if they see a benefit for themselves and believe that they aren’t being left behind.”

Labour MP Hilary Benn, co-chair of the commission, said: “The jurors have given us an invaluable insight into how they think the UK should address the climate and nature crises.

“They want government at all levels, business and civil society to be ambitious but they are also crystal clear that we must address wider inequalities and that the public must be involved in the process every step of the way.”

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