Climate change is the most serious issue facing the world and is a truly global challenge. We have a moral responsibility to do what we can to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change for future generations.
Scotland has been praised as a world leader for the action we are taking to address the issue. We have introduced a new climate change bill that contains the most ambitious statutory targets of any country in the world for 2020, 2030 and 2040, and will mean Scotland is carbon neutral by 2050.
However, the urgency of climate change means it is right that we are all challenged to constantly reassess our approach and to see where we can do more.
It is of course extremely important that school pupils attend their lessons, and as first minister, I could not condone repeated absences during term time. But in Scotland our schools teach and encourage our young people to engage in public debate and to learn about the issues that concern them.
Lowering the voting age to 16 as we have done since 2014 has only enhanced our political debate and in 2018 we celebrated the Year of Young People. The year gave young people new opportunities for their voices to be heard in all parts of our society and helped foster better understanding, cooperation and respect between generations.
On a matter of such importance as climate change, it is inspiring that young people are engaged, interested and ready to take action themselves to hold world leaders and governments to account. Later this month I will be meeting a group of young people from across Scotland who have been active climate change campaigners to discuss the issue and hear their concerns.
We must listen to the voice of the next generation and involve them in decision-making and policy development. It is their planet to inherit, and their passion to protect it should inspire us all.