Fighting the Climate Crisis: Listening to Europe’s Youth

Current young generations are the ones who will be impacted the most by climate change. Given their vulnerability to the government’s current decisions, youth participation in the climate crisis should be encouraged. Their participation has been relevant in the past as well, as young Europeans helped shape the Green Deal through the requests they advocated for as part of environmental organisations and thus made green policies a priority for the European Commission’s 2019-24 guidelines.

Why is there a need for the youths to take an active role in fighting the climate crisis

According to the European Environmental Bureau’s 2021 report, young Europeans tend to be worried about climate change in absolute terms. More than eight out of ten young Europeans (84%) are fairly, very or extremely worried about climate change. This varies depending on the country. While in Austria and Germany, more than half (55% to 54%) of young people consider climate change to be among the most serious problems facing the world, this figure is about a third to a quarter (32%-24%) in Romania and Cyprus. When referring to climate action, most young Europeans consider that the most important way of fighting climate change is through both EU-level policies and national-level policies (EBS517, 2021).

In the 2023 report from EEB, almost nine in ten Europeans consider that their national government and the European Union need to set ambitious targets to fulfil their 2030 goals in terms of renewable energy. Most results are age dependent – the respondents with ages between 15 and 24 are more likely to say it is important in comparison with those aged 55 and older.

The superficial involvement of the youth without giving them any influence in the decision-making process needs to be avoided. In the 2022 report done by Generation Climate Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network on 12 Member States, the practice of asking the youth and NGOs for feedback only after the policies and projects were already finalized was common. This raises the question of how we can include young people in the decision-making process so that their voices are heard and listened to.

About our event

Fighting the Climate Crisis: Listening to Europe’s Youth event included two debates on the following topics:

  • Learning from the Youth – Are young people’s voices heard enough in the political process? Are the EU’s current climate targets consistent with the expectations of youth? In all 27 Member States, young people between 16 and 24 consistently rank climate change as the most important issue facing the EU as a whole and their own countries. This is significantly higher than other age cohorts, who tend to be more worried about more ‘regular’ issues such as inflation, unemployment etc. Can these types of worries be reconciled?
  • How well equipped are our urban communities for reaching the climate objectivesHow well-equipped are policy-makers and the public administration at all governance levels (European, national, local) in carrying-out the green transition? Are the current Commission’s plans for reaching net-zero by 2050 realistic/ambitious enough? How must our cities change in the process?

We aim to express our gratitude to the 8 key speakers (youths and representatives of youth organizations, representatives of EU institutions, climate activists, and members of the local public administrations) and our colleagues from the youth-led Politica la minut initiative with whom we co-organized the event. The event was attended by more than 115 participants which shows a very high interest in being part of the environmental policies at all levels.

The event is co-financed by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the European Union or the Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). The European Union or the coordinating institution cannot be held responsible for them.