The Senedd backed calls to address climate anxiety among children and young people who are “overwhelmed by anger and grief” about the state of the planet.
Delyth Jewell outlined plans for a climate assurance bill, describing a surge in anxiety and fear as a hidden calamity of the climate crisis.
Plaid Cymru’s deputy leader said eco-anxiety is so prevalent that Save the Children has found 70% of young people are worried about the world they will inherit.
She warned: “Record numbers of young people are so overwhelmed by anger and grief about the state of our planet that it's having a negative effect on their mental state.”
The South Wales East MS said the bill would ensure addressing young people’s concerns about the climate crisis are a more mainstream part of the curriculum.
Ms Jewell told the Senedd she has spoken to clinicians and academics about the urgent need to change how we talk to young people about climate change.
She said: “We shouldn't gaslight them into thinking it's not as bad as they fear, because it is.
“Recognising, legitimising that anger, and, yes, that grief about how they feel about what's being taken away from them before their eyes, that's so important, so they feel less alone.
“But at the same time, unequivocally, we must empower them to learn more about what's happening to tackle the crisis.”
She explained that the bill would ensure the curriculum reflects the urgency of the crisis and teaching is embedded across all subjects, not only geography and science.
Carolyn Thomas, a Labour backbencher, raised the importance of like-minded young people joining groups such as the North Wales Wildlife Trust’s youth forum.
She said: “Children are far more aware now, and with COP28 being run by oil barons, and our Westminster Government providing 100 new oil licences, it is terrifying.
“But it should be more terrifying for adults to know what our children will have to face because of our generation.
“Children speak to me, saying it's presumed that it will be OK because young people understand and they will make the world better, but they say to me, 'It'll be too late then, it's up to you to do something about it now.' And we must.”
During the debate on Wednesday 17 January, Jeremy Miles told the chamber that learning about climate change and the environment is already a mandatory part of the curriculum.
The education minister agreed with the principles underpinning the proposal but he argued that additional requirements would cause confusion and be unnecessary.
He said: “We have commissioned resources to support teachers to plan a curriculum that includes effective learning about climate change and the importance of action.
“This includes resources for schools that relate specifically to climate anxiety. The proposals talk about anxiety in terms of climate change.
“I know that the impact of climate change is a concern for children and young people, and, for some, this will lead to anxiety.
“And that's why addressing mental health and responding to a range of experiences – including those that actually exacerbate anxiety – are a requirement for all schools”
The motion was agreed 22-13, with 17 ministers and Labour backbenchers abstaining, but the proposal is unlikely to go any further without the Welsh Government’s support.