Lower voting age to let informed youth ‘vote climate’

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

February 7th, 2020

Teenage climate strikes are out in the streets of Cork city today to ask adults to consider the planet when casting their votes in the general election tomorrow.

While smaller in numbers, today’s strike builds on last November larger protest in the rebel county that brought Cork city’s traffic to a standstill.

Speaking to The Green News at today’s strike, Cork’s most prominent climate striker, 17-year-old Saoi O’Connor said that she is asking adults to “consider myself and my generation and the people in the global south who are experiencing [climate change] when casting their votes.

Ms O’Connor added that she asked all parties to refrain from “bringing their material” to today’s event, as teenage strikers are not affiliated with any political group or party.

She said that she also thinks the voting age should be reduced to 16 so that “informed” young people can “vote climate”.

“I think voting age should be reduced, and I think Irish organisations like the Irish second level students union and the national youth council have done really awesome work on that,” she said.

Theresa Rose Sebastian at Cork climate strike Photo: Shamim Malekmian

Theresa Rose Sebastian, 16, also told The Green News that she is hoping that voting age would be reduced in the future, for the sake of the planet. “We have the knowledge, and we’re politically aware enough, so that shouldn’t be an excuse,” Ms Sebastian said.

“I was doing climate canvassing, and a lot of did not know how important it was to vote for the parties who actually take the climate strike into consideration,” she added.

Yesterday, former president and climate justice advocate Mary Robinson issued a video statement in support of the strikers, stressing the importance of allowing young people to protest as “they can’t vote in our elections and they want to draw attention to the importance of climate”.

“You’re never too young to protest, the right of freedom of expression is a right at any stage and the Conventions on the Rights of the Child guarantees that children can have a voice and participate,” Ms Robinson said.

Last autumn, the world’s climate scientists said that to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we need to cut our fossil fuel consumption to half by 2030 and be net-zero by mid-century.

This spring, the world set another high mark for carbon dioxide production in the atmosphere of 415 parts per million, the highest level in many millions of years.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.