National treasure and Richmond resident, Sir David Attenborough, has said he “admires” school strikers and “the lengths to which they will go to convince people that they are serious”.

He made the comments about children skipping school to take part in climate protests at the borough’s first ever youth climate change summit yesterday (October 16), organised by Richmond Council.

Speaking to a crowd of schoolchildren from across the borough, the natural historian said young people “have every right to make their opinions heard and to be taken seriously.”

However, he said more needs to be done: “The sort of strikes that we’re seeing going on now are very important to convince politicians that you care about what is happening. But at the same time they don’t produce the answer. 

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“The world isn’t better for people being arrested. It hasn’t produced answers.

“In the end the politicians have got to be able to produce some answers to convince you that they are taking it seriously. And it’s not easy. We have to get the world to help with this problem. Unless we get Brazil on our side, Australia, unless we can convince the American government to take it seriously, then we are going to be in trouble. 

“I admire a lot of what has been happening and what young people have said and the lengths to which they will convince people that they are serious. That they mean it. It’s your future. I am convinced that you mean it, now we must be more creative rather than destructive. We must find solutions rather than just protest.”

Speaking about his own efforts to reduce his environmental impact Sir David admitted that he does not do “enough.”

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“I am embarrassed by how little I do. I hope I do the standard things that all of you do, which is not to waste energy, but I worry about how much travel I do. I worry about how much travel by plane I do because I am doing those kind of programmes abroad.

“I would like to think that the programmes I do can offset to some degree the amount of carbon that I generate.”

Despite the scale of the problem, he said there is also a lot to be optimistic about and praised the effort of Richmond and London councils over the years to improve air quality: “Things have got better, people have become more aware of the quality of air and the quality of the environment in Richmond. I am proud to live here, I am privileged to live here.”

He went on to praise Richmond Park and the work being done at Kew Gardens “which can show us astonishments and beauties from all over the world.”

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Students invited to the event at York House were excited to see Sir David and spoke eloquently about the climate emergency.

Lauren, 13, a student at the Richmond Upon Thames School said she thought it was “super important” for young people to be involved in policy on climate change and take part in the school strikes:

“A lot of times young people can’t get involved in things like voting but by protesting they can do something about it. Protesting is accessible to everyone,” she said. 

George, 14, added: “The polar ice caps are melting, there’s a slow gradual rise in global temperatures. It will disrupt life as we know it. It’s not something we can flick away.”

Cllr Martin Elengorn, the council’s chair of the environment, sustainability, culture and Sport Committee, said: “The threat of Climate Change is real; the threat is now, and it is only going to get worse. As guardians of the planet we all have a role to play. We caused the damage in the first place.

“Richmond Council is committed to putting in place plans that will help reduce the borough’s carbon footprint and improve our air quality. However, we know that we need help from residents, local businesses, schools, organisations and the Government, to be able to make the huge changes required to make a difference.

“Thank you to all those who took part in the summits. Hearing from Sir David Attenborough was inspirational for the young attendees. In particular, I would like to thank Joe Crabtree and the Youth Council, they demonstrated how concerned young people are about the future of the planet.

“Over 30 organisations also took part in the market place or as facilitators at the events. Their help and guidance during the discussions was vital in encouraging positive and constructive feedback.

“We now have to go through every comment and idea and look at whether each is feasible to be incorporated within the strategies. We will report back later this year.”

The deadline to have your say in the Climate Change and Air Quality strategies consultation is 24 October. Go to: