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Environment

'I am not yet convinced': Michael Gove on votes at 16, Heathrow and fracking

As part of our Earth Day special focusing on young climate campaigners, the Big issue sent George Bond, 16, to demand answers and action from the UK environment secretary

Michael Gove and George Bond

Across the UK, young people are growing frustrated with UK leaders who won’t use their power to combat climate change.

That’s why The Big Issue arranged for UK Youth Climate Coalition campaigner George Bond, 16 from Seaton, to interview the man who steers the nation’s environment policy, Michael Gove.

The Environment Secretary said that he felt that it is important to have informed debate “at every level” but did not think the voting age should be lowered, explaining that he is “open-minded” but “not yet convinced” that 16 and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote.

While in conversation with the environment secretary, Bond expressed concerns about the recently approved Heathrow expansion and how that will affect the country’s carbon footprint.

Net zero doesn’t mean that there are no emissions,

“We’re working with not just airports but also airlines in order to see how we can ensure that we minimise the damage that’s generated by emissions,” Gove said. “We were discussing land use and forestry earlier, part of what one needs to do is to make sure that you can capture carbon emissions effectively and move towards net zero.”

He added: “Net zero doesn’t mean that there are no emissions. It just means that the emissions can be captured effectively and that the economic activity that requires emissions can be offset by the right sort of environmental policies overall in order to ensure that we are making the progress we need to.”

Bond then asked why, if the government is dedicated to investing in the environment to mitigate carbon emissions, it is still in favour of fracking.

Gove agreed that “proceeding with caution is the best way to approach it”, but that we should consider our approach to fracking rather than writing it off altogether.

He added: “There is an argument that hydraulic fracturing is less damaging environmentally than some other methods of hydrocarbon extraction.

“I think that obviously we want to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons as rapidly as possible and decarbonising our economy is something that is at the heart of our Clean Growth Strategy, but I think that one can’t afford to dismiss out of hand any particular technology if it can be an appropriate part of the mix.”

Sixteen-year-old Bond spoke to the politician for the Big Issue’s Earth Day kids’ takeover, which sees some of the most switched-on young people in the country explain their biggest issues when it comes to climate change.

Across the country, students have been walking out of classes in organised strikes to raise awareness of climate change. But addressing the growing movement Gove said: “The idealism behind young people raising consciousness and awareness of the need to tackle climate change is admirable.

“While I would never encourage anyone to take time off school, because I think education is critically important, nevertheless, I admire the determination and the sense of urgency which so many young people feel.”

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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