Mr Gove said he "shared their higher ideals" to tackle climate change.
Members of campaign group Extinction Rebellion said "the rebellion has to continue" after a "disappointing" meeting with Environment Secretary Michael Gove. They must respond to the climate and ecological emergency with the clarity and urgency our children demand.
There is no single definition of what that means, but many local areas say they want to be carbon-neutral by 2030, and proponents say the situation amounts to an emergency because the United Nations has warned the world could have just 12 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe.
He also said he was "open-minded" about the possibility of citizens' assemblies.
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"We are with you in relation to lobbying the government government in relation to powers and resources, and we see you as allies in relation to lobbying the government".
Politicians appear to have been taken by surprise by the upsurge in climate activism from Extinction Rebellion, but polls, including one by Greenpeace published on Monday, show there is widespread support among the public for actions that would reduce the impacts of climate change, even if some come at a cost.
"I'm pleased with discussions that took place today and that we were met at the appropriate level", said Savannah Lovelock, a coordinator of the youth wing of the movement, after meeting Gove and McDonnell on Tuesday.
They include declaring a national emergency on climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and establishing a Citizens Assembly for people to make decisions and suggest policies.