Some of the country's youngest citizens have begun discussing how to protect and restore biodiversity in Ireland.

The 35-strong group have come together to form the first ever national Children and Young People's Assembly on Biodiversity Loss.

It aims to inform the Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, which is also taking place over the course of this year.

The children and young people, aged seven to 17, met for the first time last weekend at Glencree in Co Wicklow.

Eight-year-old assembly member Mikey says he loves biodiversity

Mikey, aged eight, from Co Wicklow said: "Biodiversity is the world around us and we're a part of biodiversity. And we're losing it, so I wanted to help out".

Zion from Co Mayo loves taking part in the problem-solving workshops

Zion, aged nine, from Co Mayo said: "I like nature and I like helping animals. And I like making good decisions for animals and plants".

Seán feels more children need to be educated on the biodiversity emergency

Seán, who is 12 and from Co Cork, said: "It's not - can we make a change? It's - we have to make a change. I just wanted to help because all these nature documentaries, I hear people saying how the world is changing. And I always wonder how can I help? And I heard about this".

At the first of two weekend meetings this month, members of the assembly participated in biodiversity-themed workshops, nature trails and problem-solving brainstorming sessions.

The assembly also had talks from climate crisis scientists and received a video message of support from former President and advocate for climate justice Mary Robinson.

The assembly is taking place against the backdrop of the global biodiversity crisis.

One million species of plants and animals are facing extinction, according to a report earlier this year from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

In Ireland, a 2019 report found that 85% of protected habitats were in unfavourable condition and 14% of assessed species are thought to be endangered. The number of plants, insects, mammals and birds that are threatened or endangered is growing year-on-year.

Assembly organisers say biodiversity loss affects children's rights to grow up in healthy, safe and clean environments.

A team of young people aged eight to 16 are helping to ensure the assembly is run in a way that works for children and young people.

Amhairghin helped design the assembly over the summer

Fifteen-year-old Amhairghin, a member of the Young Advisory Team, said: "Young people are the future. It is very important that we make our plans for the future. The 35 members have been assembled and we have been educating them. It's been going great so far. A younger voice brings a lot more creativity to the problem-solving. They are very much in their prime to take in information and output it as ideas".

Anabel says it is very rewarding to see her team's ideas come to fruition

Young Advisory Team member Anabel, 16, agreed that education is key for tackling issues around the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

She said: "I was talking to my cousins about getting involved with this. They're much younger than me. And I said, 'It's the biodiversity assembly. And they said, 'What's biodiversity?' And that's OK they don't know what biodiversity is. But when I said, 'It's wildlife, it's nature, it's animals, it's plants', they were like, 'Oh, that's amazing. I love all those things'.

"You have to explain and educate people on this so that then they know and then they can take action".

The Young Advisory Team also worked alongside experts in children's participation, deliberative democracy, and biodiversity from Dublin City University, University College Cork, and Terre des hommes, an international organisation with a focus on children's environmental rights.

Katie Reid previously led a similar process for Scotland's Climate Assembly

Katie Reid of Terre des hommes said: "There is an assembly happening with the adult population. That is those over the age of 18. Children and young people also have the right to participate and have their say in these issues so that they too can inform the conversation being had by the adult assembly, but also, wider policy and legislative changes that are happening in Ireland.

"Children and young people, their rights today, but also future generations, are being infringed in terms of how they can grow up in healthy, safe and clean environments. The threat is real."

The Children and Young People's Assembly will meet again next weekend in Killarney, Co Kerry to finalise their recommendations to the adult assembly and create calls to action for decision-makers in Ireland.

Assembly member Seán said: "We should be the most involved because it's our future. We're going to be the ones living with the results".

In our 'Climate Heroes' series of reports, we shine a light on the people who are stepping up to protect the environment and tackle climate change. While these people come from all walks of life, they share a common purpose to improve the world around us.