On 25 July, 11-year-old activist Jude Walker began a 200-mile walk to raise awareness of a petition to introduce a nationwide carbon tax. Garnering the attention of the national media, Jude walked from his home of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, to Westminster, accompanied by his mothers in a campervan. He was also joined by MPs Holly Lynch of Halifax and Ben Everitt of Milton Keynes as he walked through their constituencies.
Green World spoke to Jude about his walk, the inspiration; the aim; and the outcomes, as well as his plans to attend the upcoming Green Party of England and Wales Autumn Conference this weekend (22-24 October).
How did you come up with the idea to walk to Westminster?
I first really grasped the impact of climate change about two years ago, when I read a book called Dire Predictions, which shows the findings of the IPCC, and, in addition to making the consequences clear, it named reforestation and carbon taxation as the main solutions.
It made me read more on climate change and the more I read, the more I wanted to make a difference, so, after listening to a Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, I decided to do a small protest in St Georges Square (a central place in our little town) against peat burning, but I wanted to do more. A few days later I rediscovered carbon taxation and found out that none of my friends, parents or teachers had heard of this vital thing.
I researched about our current Emissions Trading Scheme and realised only a third of emissions were being taxed, then followed citation links on Wikipedia to find out how the negative impacts of a carbon tax could be averted (e.g. inequality driven by higher prices averted by a carbon dividend).
I decided to support the Zero Carbon Campaign’s petition for a carbon tax (or carbon pricing) by walking to London. Walking, because I had been doing lots of walking during lockdown, and London, because it’s the capital, where people with power take notice. I hoped that a child walking such a long distance would get press attention and raise awareness.
What did the walk aim to achieve?
I wanted to raise awareness and help the petition to get at least 100,000 signatures so it would be debated in parliament prior to COP26.
What kind of response did you get from the Government/MPs?
I gave lots of interviews, for example, to the BBC, Unilad, Times Radio, Sky, the Yorkshire Post, AP, Reuters and many more to raise publicity for the carbon taxation, the petition and climate change in general. I also spoke with seven MPs and one member of the House of Lords, and the head of OVO energy/founder of the Zero Carbon Campaign. I had some good talks with MPs. Some MPs were worried that a carbon tax would end up being passed on to consumers, but others talked about using money raised by a carbon tax for retrofitting insulation in people’s homes to help bring down energy bills and further reduce carbon emissions. At least one also talked about carbon dividends and personal carbon budgets.
I handed in a letter to Downing Street asking the Prime Minister to introduce a carbon tax, but we didn’t get a response to that.
For those who are currently walking to the COP26 summit – any advice?
I feel immensely amazed that I managed to do the walk, and help get the signatures needed, and I want to tell others that if you want something changed you can make a difference, especially if you set a date or timescale for your action. It is worth at least trying.
I would also like to pass on the advice given to me by former deputy head, who said just keep taking one more step, as each step will take you closer to your goal. This helped me, even when I was really tired.
Jude will be attending the Green Party of England and Wales Conference this weekend. He will be featured as a panellist for ‘Campaigning to close the gap between hot air and climate action’, which will take place at 13:30 23 October, in the Eastside Rooms (Ashtead 1+2).
To access the full programme, please visit the Green Party website.