Bill would create youth climate and conservation council

March 7, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire youth advisory council with participants ranging in age from 12 to 25 would make recommendations on policies, laws, and educational programs concerning climate, energy, conservation and recreation, according to a state senator’s bill.

“New Hampshire’s youth will be affected by current and future decisions regarding climate change for the rest of their lives,” said Sen. David Watters, a Democrat from Dover who introduced the measure. “They rely on their governing bodies to take action to protect clean water, clean air, and the economic growth and workforce development that goes hand in hand with the creation of renewable energy jobs.”

Watters said it’s important that youth have a say on climate change matters in the state.

“It’s their future,” he said.

The youth climate and conservation council would advise legislative leaders. It would include one resident of each county, plus four members each from middle school, high school, and college or university students. Each member would serve a two-year term.

The council would consider scientific reports “on the conditions and challenges to a clean and healthy environment, including clean water, air, renewable energy, open spaces, recreational opportunities, and the economic growth and employment opportunities dependent on such features of New Hampshire’s environment,” according to the bill.

The group also would consult with state agencies, municipal officials, policy advocacy groups, businesses, industry, educational leaders and scientists. It would submit an annual report on its findings and recommendations.

At a recent bill hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Bob Guida, a Republican from Warren, questioned the need for the council, since students can testify at legislative hearings.

Watters said the council provides a vehicle for informed discussion and consensus building. It also authorizes students to make reports to the Legislature.

Guida asked why the topic couldn’t be covered by the New Hampshire Legislative Youth Advisory Council, a statewide group that meets monthly to advise lawmakers on bills important to youth.

Rep. Marjorie Porter, a Democrat from Hillsborough and co-chairperson of that group, said the council is considering many other topics at the same time, such as substance abuse, sex education and mental health. It’s expected to weigh in on the climate and conservation council bill at its next meeting on March 15.

“Climate action is very important to this group,” Porter said.

She said the legislative youth council supports another bill making its way through the Legislature, which would require school districts to offer lessons on climate change.