Youth movements in Europe seeking answers to the climate crisis

ASPEA_Foto: António Pedro Santos

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Youth movements in Europe seeking answers to the climate crisis

Written by Sílvia Gomes

Climate change is gaining relevance, interest, and space in young people's daily lives. In September, six Portuguese youths took 32 states to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for inaction on climate change, challenging their fundamental rights in a case that could set a precedent for climate justice.

According to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action, “the decade from 2011 to 2020 has been the warmest on record”. Rising temperatures have a negative impact on both the natural environment and the health of us all.

Determined and dynamic young people have played a vigilant and even activist role on the issue of climate change. A good example of this is the lawsuit filed by six young Portuguese against 32 states, including the 27 European Union (EU) member states and the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey (originally 33 states, but the lawsuit against Ukraine was withdrawn), for failing to take the necessary measures to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, one of the goals of the Paris Agreement.

About the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016, has been signed by 196 countries as of COP27 in November 2022, and all EU countries have ratified the agreement.

According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the Paris Agreement “aims to decarbonise the global economy and sets as one of its long-term goals to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognising that this will significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

The Paris Agreement represents a paradigm shift in the implementation of the UNFCCC, as countries are expected to commit to a deep decarbonisation of the global economy that builds resilience and reduces the vulnerability of communities to climate change.

Responding to the climate crisis

In the Climate Change Performance Index 2021 (CCPI), Portugal is ranked 14th, according to Quercus, an environmental NGO, as a result of “climate policies in the categories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use, which have significantly improved”. Notably, Spain (23rd) moved up 11 places in the rankings, thanks to its ambition to reduce GHG emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. Italy is ranked 29th.

The Climate Change Performance Index 2021 is a comparative analysis of climate action in 57 countries (plus the European Union), which account for 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is produced by two international organizations, Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute.

Greta Thunberg

The name Greta Thunberg leaves no one indifferent. In August 2018, at the age of 15, she started a protest in front of the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action against climate change. The young woman’s initiative eventually reached the whole world and even earned her global recognition, as she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and 2020 and named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019.

What are young people doing for the world?

But concern for the climate is not limited to Greta Thunberg. Many young people are concerned about the climate crisis and are ready to act, seeking ideas and solutions on how to change and adapt lifestyles to (re)build an environmentally responsible and socially just society. Information and education play a key role in helping young people to better understand the climate crisis and what it represents, as well as how climate change relates to their daily lives, their local environment, and the decisions they make, especially as consumers, managers, and policy makers.

The role of youth in issues related to the environment and the climate crisis is becoming more prominent around the world. Young people are becoming leaders in climate action, influencing policy, educating society, and driving significant structural change.

People and Planet: A Common Destiny is a pan-European project to mobilise young citizens and global leaders in the fight against climate change.

In 2022, People & Planet published the report European Youth and Climate Change: A Community Baseline, which analyses the relationship between young people and climate action from different perspectives in the 8 countries implementing the European project: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Ireland, Germany, and Romania.

Germany: Young people are very involved in environmental and climate protection. The movement “Fridays for Future” (FfF), inspired by Greta Thunberg, is an important example. In addition, groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Ende Gelände are also active in the fight against climate change.

Ireland: The “Eire Climate Assembly” brings together young people to make demands on the Irish government, including the protection of biodiversity and a just transition. This demonstrates the commitment of Irish youth to climate action.

Italy: The Italian Youth Association for UNESCO, at its third Youth Forum, held virtually in Parma, Italian Capital of Culture, in 2021, launched the “Next Generation You” Manifesto.

Furthermore, the Dipartimento della Presidenza del Consiglio per le Politiche Giovanili e il Servizio Civile launched in 2021 GIOVANI2030, a platform that aims to create a community able to contribute ideas and contents, but also to welcome proposals, ideas and suggestions in collaborative planning and co-management of projects, where young people can become protagonists of their future. This platform has also been promoted by ANCI Giovani – the Youth Section of the National Union of Municipalities, to boost youth participation and the development of new civic spaces and opportunities.

In terms of climate action, and according to a survey conducted by WeWorld in 2021 in 23 EU countries, young Italians show higher levels than the European average in terms of awareness of climate change and the urgency of addressing climate-related issues.

Poland: Youth Climate Strike is an active group that campaigns on environmental and social issues. Its members take part in events and meetings with local and national authorities.

Portugal: Portugal’s first National Youth Plan was created in 2018 through a participatory process and commits to “the involvement and participation of young people in the implementation of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda”. In general, youth participation in Portugal has been promoted for decades through the National Youth Council (1985), the Youth Parliament (1995) and the Participatory Youth Budget (2017). As mentioned at the beginning of this article, in 2020, six Portuguese young people, together with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), took the unprecedented initiative of filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against 32 countries.

Among other existing partnerships, Portugal has the work of the Portuguese Association for Environmental Education (ASPEA). This is an environmental NGO with more than 30 years of experience in environmental awareness raising, training and capacity building, consultancy and development of environmental education projects and programmes on various environmental and sustainability issues, with an important role for youth participation.

Romania: New Horizons has established partnerships in Romania with the Ministry of Education, private companies supporting quality education and other NGOs working in the field of education. The partnerships prepare students (12-18 years) and young adults (18-26 years) to become global citizens, actively participate in their communities and solve global problems. They also open new channels of communication between schools, communities, and teachers, and between education NGOs, schools and the private sector.

Spain: At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, the Spanish government signed a declaration reflecting the priorities identified by children and young people around the world. According to the INJUVE Youth in Spain 2020 report, the climate emergency concerns young people more than the average of other issues raised, especially those aged 14-19. In addition, 15% of respondents say they have participated in demonstrations, strikes or protests against climate change. They also generally agree with policies that promote recycling, ban plastic packaging, and support renewable energy.

The Netherlands: Ahead of the historic Paris climate summit in 2015, three youth organisations decided it was time to act together. Jongeren Milieu Actief, Studenten voor Morgen and Youth Representatives for Sustainable Development to the UN organised the first Youth Climate Summit and drafted a manifesto under the joint name ‘Youth Climate Movement’. More than 30 youth organisations signed this manifesto, not only youth organisations active in the field of sustainability and the environment, but also trade unions, political youth organisations, education parties and student clubs. Young people massively expressed their concerns for the future. On 31 October 2016, the Youth Climate Movement Foundation was born.

In all these countries, young people are playing an important role in raising awareness of the climate crisis, demanding policies to decarbonise the global economy, building resilience and reducing the vulnerability of communities to climate change, and promoting active participation in climate action.

EU support for young activists

The EU and its Member States are involved in international efforts to combat climate change through the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.

Alongside this political action, the EU offers various funding opportunities for young people and youth organisations. Although these programmes are broader than the fight against climate change, it is possible to carry out projects around this theme:

·        European Solidarity Corps: a voluntary initiative that enables young people to make a concrete contribution in a number of areas, including environmental protection. The initiative is open to young people aged 17-30.

·        Erasmus+ Youth Exchanges: allow groups of young people aged 13-30 from different countries to meet, socialise and work together on short term projects (5-21 days).

·        Erasmus+ for Young Entrepreneurs: a transnational exchange programme offering new or aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in another participating country.

The EU institutions have mechanisms for dialogue with young people, such as the EU Youth Dialogue, the Citizens’ Dialogue, and other initiatives.

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What is the Paris agreement?
Climate change
Voices of change

EASY

Youth movements in Europe seeking answers to the climate crisis

Written by Sílvia Gomes

Climate change is gaining relevance, interest, and space in young people’s daily lives. In September, six Portuguese youths took 32 states to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for inaction on climate change, challenging their fundamental rights in a case that could set a precedent for climate justice

Determined and dynamic young people have played an activist role on the issue of climate change. A good example is the lawsuit filed by six young Portuguese against 32 states, including the 27 members of the European Union (EU) plus the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, and Turkey, for failing to take the necessary measures to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, one of the goals of the Paris Agreement.

 About the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016, was signed by 196 countries in November 2022 and ratified by all EU countries.

According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the Paris Agreement “aims to decarbonise the global economy and sets as one of its long-term goals to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognising that this will significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

The Paris Agreement calls for countries to commit to a deep decarbonisation of the global economy, which will strengthen the resilience of communities and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

Responding to the climate crisis

In the Climate Change Performance Index 2021 (CCPI), Portugal ranks 14th, according to environmental NGO Quercus, thanks to “climate policies in the categories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use, which have shown significant improvement”. Notably, Spain (23rd) has moved up 11 places in the rankings, thanks to its ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. Italy is ranked 29th.

The Climate Change Performance Index 2021 is a comparative analysis of climate action in 57 countries (plus the European Union), which account for 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is produced by two international organisations, Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute.

Greta Thunberg

The name Greta Thunberg leaves no one indifferent. In August 2018, at the age of 15, she started a protest in front of the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action against climate change. The young women’s initiative eventually reached the whole world and even earned her global recognition, as she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and 2020 and named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019.

What are young people doing for the world?

But concern for the climate is not limited to Greta Thunberg. Many young people are concerned about the climate crisis and are ready to take action, seek ideas and find solutions on how to change and adapt lifestyles to (re)build an environmentally responsible and socially just society.

The role of young people in issues related to the environment and the climate crisis is growing worldwide. Young people are becoming leaders in climate action, influencing policy, educating society, and driving significant structural change.

People and Planet: A Common Destiny is a pan-European project to mobilise young citizens and global leaders in the fight against climate change.

In 2022, the People & Planet project published the report European Youth and Climate Change: A Community Baseline, which analyses the relationship between young people and climate action from different perspectives in the 8 countries implementing the European project: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Ireland, Germany, and Romania.

Germany: Young people are very involved in environmental and climate protection. The ‘Fridays for Future‘ (FfF) movement, inspired by Greta Thunberg, is an important example. Groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Ende Gelände are also active in the fight against climate change.

Ireland: The Eire Climate Assembly brings young people together to make demands on the Irish government, including the protection of biodiversity and a just transition. This demonstrates the commitment of Irish youth to climate action.

Italy: The Italian Youth Association for UNESCO launched the “Next Generation You” manifesto at its third Youth Forum, held virtually in Parma, the Italian Capital of Culture for 2021.

In addition, the Dipartimento della Presidenza del Consiglio per le Politiche Giovanili e il Servizio Civile launched GIOVANI2030 in 2021, a platform that aims to create a community capable of contributing ideas and content, but also of receiving proposals, ideas and suggestions for the co-design and co-management of projects in which young people can become protagonists of their future. This platform has also been promoted by the platform ANCI Giovani – the youth section of the National Union of Municipalities – to promote youth participation and the development of new civic spaces and opportunities.

Poland: Youth Climate Strike is an active group that campaigns on environmental and social issues. Its members take part in events and meetings with local and national authorities.

Portugal: Portugal’s first National Youth Plan was created in 2018 through a participatory process and commits to “the involvement and participation of young people in the implementation of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda”. In general, youth participation in Portugal has been promoted for decades through the National Youth Council (1985), the Youth Parliament (1995) and the Participatory Youth Budget (2017).

Romania: In Romania, New Horizons has established partnerships with the Ministry of Education, private companies supporting quality education and other NGOs working in the field of education. The partnerships prepare students (aged 12-18) and young adults (aged 18-26) to become global citizens, actively participate in their communities and solve global problems. They also open new channels of communication between schools, communities, and teachers, and between education NGOs, schools, and the private sector.

Spain: At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, the Spanish government signed a declaration reflecting the priorities identified by children and young people around the world. According to the INJUVE Youth In Spain 2020 report, the climate emergency concerns young people more than the average of other issues raised, especially those aged 14-19. In addition, 15% of respondents say they have participated in demonstrations, strikes or protests against climate change.

The Netherlands: Ahead of the historic Paris climate summit in 2015, three youth organisations decided it was time to act together. Jongeren Milieu Actief, Studenten voor Morgen and Youth Representatives for Sustainable Development to the UN organised the first Youth Climate Summit and drafted a manifesto under the joint name ‘Youth Climate Movement’. More than 30 youth organisations signed this manifesto, not only youth organisations active in the field of sustainability and environment, but also trade unions, political youth organisations, education parties and student clubs. On 31 October 2016, the Youth Climate Movement Foundation was born.

EU support for young activists

The EU and its Member States are involved in international efforts to combat climate change through the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.

Alongside this political action, the EU offers various funding opportunities for young people and youth organisations. Although these programmes are broader than the fight against climate change, it is possible to carry out projects around this theme:

  •       European Solidarity Corps: a volunteering initiative that enables young people to make a concrete contribution in various fields, including environmental protection. The initiative is open to young people aged 17-30.
  •       Erasmus+ Youth Exchanges allow groups of young people aged 13-30 from different countries to meet, socialise and work together on short-term projects (5-21 days).

The EU institutions have mechanisms for dialogue with young people, such as the EU Youth Dialogue, the Citizens’ Dialogue, and other initiatives.

What is the Paris agreement?
Climate change
Voices of change

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