Entries by YEE

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Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

We, as concerned youth all over Europe, want to reiterate the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

What is being negotiated is not only a law: it is our future.

Young people and future generations deserve to grow up and live in healthy nature and functioning ecosystems. This, looking at the gloomy status of European species and habitats, can only be reached with an ambitious law that prescribes effective action now.
A watered-down law means postponing on us, later, the efforts that should be made now – and this is not fair.  

The rejection attempts by conservative and right-wing groups, led by the European People’s Party (EPP), are alarming, are failing youth, and are failing to consider us as stakeholders of the present and the future.

While we appreciate the efforts of other parliamentary groups such as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the Left, who have stood their ground and voted in favor of the Nature Restoration Law, we are disheartened by the disinformation campaign around this law. Spreading falsehoods and withdrawing from negotiations only hinders the progress necessary to address climate change and nature loss, gambling our future.

As the vote on the remaining amendments and the final report approaches on June 27th, we call on all Members of the European Parliament to prioritize the future of our planet and live up to their promises to youth. The Nature Restoration Law is not merely an environmental issue, it is a matter of intergenerational equity. 

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“Let’s state it clearly: the success of the EU Green Deal depends on the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law. This is not just a political vote, but a matter of justice: the youngest and future generations, who will face the biggest impacts from climate change, need to be supported by strong environmental legislation today to be able to exercise many of their human rights tomorrow. The only fact that the law risks being blocked is a shame, and shows once again that the EU is not taking the climate crisis seriously. For the sake of the EU credibility and climate leadership globally, we urge policy-makers and political parties to align and adopt the law, as we are still on time to avoid the mistake of the century.“

Emma Pagliarusco, Advocacy & Policy Coordinator at Youth and Environment Europe

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“On June 15th, the ENVI committee narrowly avoided a terrible setback for nature, by defeating attempts of right-winged groups to reject the Nature Restoration Law. While young Europeans can breathe a sigh of relief, the race to nature recovery is not over yet. As the voting continues on June 27th, European youth worry about what their future is going to look like.Young people have a right to live on a healthy and habitable planet, and political representatives have a duty to secure their future and the future of our next generations.“

Agata Meysner, Director at Generation Climate Europe

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european young rewilders logo no background

“Despite positive steps at the last voting session, the sharp split in ENVI and the tight votes are worrying youth. In such short time spans, young Europeans have witnessed so much nature degradation, with very little improvement and increasing negative trends despite existing laws. This means that a strong law is not just an ambition, it is a necessity to get out of the business-as-usual framework: we need a game-changer. We urge MEPs to recognize this and vote (also) for the future of those that will have to deal with the consequences of current inaction, for our children and grandchildren. Together we can rally the resilience of nature to ensure functioning and healthy ecosystems, bringing not only food security but also hope to European citizens.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders

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“The Nature Restoration Law is not only a matter of urgent importance for European Nature and critical for the living conditions we as youth will face in the future – it is also a crucial signal we are sending to other countries to live up to the commitments made in Montreal in December last year. Who, if not us, can be the ones going ahead and restoring our degraded landscapes? How can we expect other countries to live up to their promises, if we can’t do it? The European Union now has a chance to secure a better planet for the youth here and elsewhere in the world.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter

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“The EU ratified the Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal this Christmas, promising the world that restoring Nature would be the top priority. The Nature Restoration Law is the fruit of that labor. A great tool to finally reverse the loss of biodiversity. We cannot falter at the finishing line and reject the most crucial biodiversity legislation in Europe of this century. The Nordic youth urge our decision-makers in the EU to do what is right for the existing and future generations and vote YES to this Law.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN)

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“Backed by scientific evidence, the Nature Restoration Law emerges as a transformative force that benefits both nature itself and humanity at large. Youth, as custodians of the future, urgently need this law to secure a thriving planet. It signifies a profound commitment to safeguarding biodiversity's intrinsic value, preserving the web of life that sustains us all. Recognizing that our own survival is intricately linked to the well-being of nature, we implore the Members of the European Parliament to secure a strong, ambitious Nature Restoration Law and forge a path towards a harmonious coexistence with the natural world.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy

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Only with intact ecosystems do we have a chance of overcoming the climate crisis. The proposed legislation would contribute significantly to the implementation of the EU's environmental and climate goals, safeguard the livelihoods of numerous species, and ultimately create a secure future for young and future generations. If the opposition and pushback against this law ought to show us one thing, it shows that the law has the potential to be truly transformative, this is why we see regressional voices spreading false information and doing dirty campaigning – they are afraid of transformative change! This short-sightedness and ignorance towards the ecological crises of our time endanger our future. No matter if on EU, national or regional level: those who block nature conservation and restoration today are jointly responsible for the advancement of the climate crisis and the stability of our future!"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria

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Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore


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The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European


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Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can


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Our Right to be Heard: how the Aarhus Convention can open its doors to Youth

Our Right to be Heard: how the Aarhus Convention can open its doors to Youth

Why Aarhus State Parties fall short of their obligation to guarantee the right to public participation of young people in environmental decision-making?

Written by

Margarida Martins (EEB), Ruby Silk (EEB) and Emma Pagliarusco (YEE)

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What is the Aarhus Convention and why is it important for young people and future generations?

Climate change poses real threats to the future of the youngest generations through both extreme and gradually escalating weather events, with manyfold repercussions. This looming threat has even proven to lead to “climate anxiety”, a serious and negative psychological phenomenon affecting the current generation of young people in particular and associated with the “perceived failure by governments to respond to the climate crisis”.

The latest IPCC report echoes these disproportionate threats to the youngest generations and sheds light on the intergenerational dimension of the climate change problem: in order to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of today’s youth and future generations, there is an urgent need for environmental laws which are more ambitious than ever before and implemented in the fastest possible way.

The Aarhus Convention and young people

Since its adoption in 1998, the Aarhus Convention has been hailed as the leading international agreement on environmental democracy. It has brought three key environmental rights to our doorsteps: the right to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. 

The idea underpinning the Convention is no other than participatory democracy: to empower citizens and civil society to participate in environmental matters. For this reason, national authorities of State Parties are legally bound to make Aarhus rights effective. This means that they have to ensure the implementation as well as enforcement of the Aarhus provisions within public processes. Since its enactment, numerous Communications have been brought by NGOs as well as individuals to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee to challenge state practices, with energy and spatial planning being the most common sectors addressed.

Article 3(8) of the Convention also states that Parties shall ensure that persons who exercise their Aarhus rights are not penalised for their involvement. This is critically important since environmental defenders are constantly and increasingly under attack across the globe, facing intimidation, harassment, stigmatisation and criminalisation, assaults and even murder. Among them are a high number of young people and children. Global Witness has recorded that 1,539 environmental defenders were killed between 2012 and 2020 worldwide, and the real figure is likely much higher, given that many murders go unreported. 

Unfortunately, young climate activists systemically face many different challenges when seeking to exercise their rights protected by the Aarhus Convention. The targeting of youth activists is taking place in multiple and different ways across Aarhus State Parties: through brutal repression of climate movements; enacting new laws to limit and criminalise strikes (with the latest example of Italy); and through intimidation against environmental defenders (e.g., through SLAPP strategies; and even violence such as in France). There are increasingly more barriers to youth public participation, access to information and access to justice. In this regard, States constantly fall short of their obligation to guarantee the right of public participation of young people in environmental decision-making. Youth underrepresentation and generational imbalances are incompatible with democratic participation. Besides, the costly nature of going to court – which we call climate litigation – very clearly impairs the right of young people to access justice.

The Aarhus Convention is a vital piece of legislation that can ensure that the principle of intergenerational equity is included in environmental action. Article 1 recognises the role of the Convention’s pillars in contributing to the protection of the rights of every person of present and future generations. The recognition of the rights of future generations in a legal text – and an international treaty at that – is very rare and should be highlighted. It has the potential to bridge the gap left by the lack of youth representation in decision-making at the national level, ensure a level playing field in the protection of youth activists and serve as good practice for other international environmental legal frameworks.

Youth participation in Aarhus processes 

Why should the Convention promote and incorporate young voices?

There are many reasons why young people and youth organisations need to have adequate capacity to exercise their Aarhus Convention rights. Young people have a bigger stake in future problems, as they have lived in an epoch which is also defined by environmental crises

Youth-led movements and actions have taken an active stance on promoting sustainability and protecting the environment, which is unfortunately not reflected in the current environmental legal framework, apart from references in non-binding international documents such as Agenda 21, a plan of action adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which is far from enough. 

Despite its capacity and uniqueness, even the Aarhus Convention is far from being considered a well-functioning instrument for the promotion and protection of procedural rights of the youngest: just speaking about its processes, throughout YEE’s experience in two task forces, one MoP and one WGP,  we noticed a substantive gap left by the lack of youth participation. This representational imbalance presents several hurdles to the effectiveness and legitimacy of the legislative process.

First of all, youth participation is key to the legitimisation of environmental decisions amongst the young public. Considering the disproportionate climate change impacts that the youngest generations will suffer from, and considering that youth represents 30% of the population in the world, excluding youth from environmental law is one step towards climate injustice and systemic suppression of youth voices.

Secondly, the urgency felt by youth with regard to the climate emergency is unique in its kind and, when taken into consideration adequately, leads to the adoption of more ambitious and binding environmental laws.

Thirdly, including youth voices in the Aarhus Convention processes is also in line with adopting a rights-based approach to environmental legislation, therefore contributing to a more holistic consideration of the various impacts of climate change. Considering that climate change is also a human rights crisis, youth voices in the Aarhus Convention processes are needed in order to take into consideration the disproportionate impacts of climate change on all groups, including the marginalised and potentially vulnerable ones.

Last but not least, in line with Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention the principle of intergenerational equity should be given effective meaning and implemented at a national level as well as at the Convention level. This is impossible without including young people in decision-making processes.

Opportunities for youth involvement

How youth can be better involved in processes (what the Secretariat can do)

In light of the previous section, the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention is uniquely positioned to promote intergenerational dialogue and enhance the exercise of procedural rights amongst youth. Here are a few steps it can take to promote intergenerational equity:

  1. Youth should be involved in a systematic way in the Aarhus processes, for example through the establishment of a permanent youth advisory board, (such as UN Youth Advisors, UN Human Rights Youth Advisory Board). Regarding its feasibility, the Secretariat could disseminate the opportunities for youth participation to national youth focal points and NGOs to ensure that the call is open and transparent and that different youth-led groups are represented in all their diversity. The appointment of such youth envoys could follow an election process, or be the result of a competitive application process;
  2. Youth movements and representatives need to be actively supported in the exercise of access to justice. Cost abatement of climate litigation and access to the courts is essential in order to ensure access to justice for everyone (including young people) without any discriminatory obstacles. Promoting access to justice in environmental matters amongst youth also means promoting and offering pro bono legal counselling, as linguistically and culturally appropriate, to climate activists engaging or willing to engage in climate litigation, with a special focus on marginalised and potentially vulnerable groups.

How to include youth in Aarhus rights at the national level

The Aarhus Convention is also a good forum to mainstream youth participation in environmental decision-making at the national level. Through Aarhus-related processes intergenerational and multi-stakeholder dialogue can take place, good practices can be shared and the principle of intergenerational equity can be promoted. In order to include youth in Aarhus rights at the national level, State Parties should take the following steps:

  1. Parties should include youth representatives in the Convention processes with a vision to foster meaningful youth engagement and ensure fair democratic representation in line with the principle of intergenerational equity. 
  2. States should adopt the necessary legislation that reflects their environmental goals, taking into account any international obligations. In this process, it is vital that there is access to justice provisions, which ensure that the public concerned can scrutinise authorities’ decisions which have an impact on the environment (per Article 9(3) of the AC). The process should also be made accessible to youth. 
  3. States should ensure that environmental information is made accessible to the youngest members of the public, including children.
  4. States are urged to decriminalise youth activism and start a process to involve youth activists in decision-making processes as an alternative channel.
  5. Connected with this last point, it is fundamental that States support more systematically the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders and collaborate with youth and non-youth NGOs active on the matter.

The Rapid Response Mechanism, a mechanism under the Aarhus Convention that provides emergency response to environmental defenders in situations of danger, also addresses the many challenges youth climate activists face, including criminalisation and repression following climate action. Young climate activists need protection. In this regard, appointing youth national focal points or hubs in coordination with the RRM would be beneficial as it would allow young people to easily approach them when seeking the enforcement of Aarhus provisions. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur should take into account social and cultural differences and collaborate with national governments to abate any linguistic, cultural, social and political barriers to the enjoyment of Aarhus rights. Likewise, it will be necessary to devote provisions to young people, with special attention to the possibility for underage people to benefit from the RRM. 

Stronger Environmental Rights on the Horizon for the Youth

In conclusion, all people of the present generation should be able to meaningfully and effectively exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention and shape the environmental and climate policies that affect their lives and the lives of future generations. All Parties to the Convention – as well as the Convention itself – have a duty to ensure this is done properly, and swiftly. The latest developments discussed above indicate that there are stronger environmental rights on the horizon for the youth to acquire.


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Introducing Ia | Showcasing the Unheard









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I believe that small actions have large importance

Ia is a young activist from Georgia who is passionate about environmental protection and social justice. For Ia, activism means empowering others and making small contributions to bring about positive change. She aims to engage more diverse groups in her activities and encourages everyone to believe in themselves and their ability to become a positive change-maker.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who’s Ia?

I’m Ia from Georgia from a village named Martkopi. I’m a 10th grader and a young activist.

Where did your journey start?

It all started four years ago when I was a sixth grader. I was an active youngster, a part of a school club. I wanted to gain new experience in the beginning. I decided to take part in an eco-club at my school. That is when it all started.

First of all, I was part of planning small activities with my school eco-club members. I got more involved when I found out about the initiative called eco-leaders, which was the turning point. It was an extraordinary activity held by the environmental and education center of Georgia. It was a short-term course about different matters of the environment. The connections I made there, the people and the information were incredible. After that I became a chair of my eco-club.

I started to plan activities in this eco-club by myself. I slowly started reaching out of my school and now I’m doing activities in my whole village. And not only that, I’m working outside of my village too. I’m also trying to take part in international projects.

What kind of projects are you working on? 

I’m planning various projects in my youth center and these projects are about not only environmental problems and environmental protection. We focus on human rights, democracy, tolerance, equality, so on. But what I enjoy most is speaking about environmental matters. I organize clean-ups in my village, different workshops, flea markets focusing on upcycling, and in our youth center, we started a recycling project. What I’m really proud of is the fact that my village is the first village in Georgia where we have recycling infrastructure. There is no recycling culture as in the rest of Europe yet. 

We also host many information projects and meetings, because we feel it is important to raise awareness of our generation and the older generations. For example, I once held a training about ecological human rights with my friend.

What are the communities that you are engaging? 

In the youth center there are mostly people my age, around 14 to 18 years old. But as we try to reach out to all kinds of groups and communities, youth are not the only group we are working with. We are working with the “young parents” as well, people who are around 30 to 40 years old. We are also working with different local businesses in our region, we are also working with the municipality sector, different private and public institutions like schools in our village or different youth clubs. 

What are the most pressing environmental issues of your region or Georgia that you care about?

People have no information. People need information first and then they can recycle and start caring about the wildlife in Georgia. Georgia’s nature is really mysterious and really beautiful. And the people don’t know about the ways they can help to protect it.

We are changing that. In Georgia we need to simply speak more about the environmental problems and help the people to understand it first.

What does activism mean to you?

I really care about empowering other people. In activism, it is sometimes difficult to see that you are making an impact. But with a little patience and time you will be able to see that there is a lot of meaning in the activities that you do. 

I believe that you can become a change-maker in your community with small contributions, through small things like a clean-up in your village. 

It’s a small contribution but it’s a really big step.

“I have this motto: think globally, act locally.”

Remember that any action has an impact and with the right motivation and company you can help the environment on the local level and slowly send a ripple effect elsewhere.

What do you think you would need to engage more people in your movement and in your activities?

We definitely need better mobilisation techniques to engage more diverse groups in our activities. Especially different generations and people with fewer opportunities, should be on our radar. But we also need good strategies to stay motivated and empower each other in our community, so that our work is sustainable.

If you could send a message out to these people that you would like to engage more, what would you tell them? 

Always believe in yourself. Because if you do, you will start to understand that anything is possible. In that way, you will start to bring positive change and be able to become a positive change-maker.

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A lot of finance is still not Green​ | Webinar

A lot of finance is still not Green

What should we change to fix that?

A lot of finance is still not Green

What should we change to fix that?

Practical information

  • When

    Friday 2nd June 2023 at 18h CEST

  • Where

    Online

  • How

    Register your interest

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Together with April Merleaux (co-author of the Banking on Climate Chaos Report) and Noam-Pierre Werlé from Reclaim Finance, we will discuss the relation of mutual interdependence between financial institutions and the fossil fuel industry. We will also analyze in what ways this relation can be leveraged to discourage future fossil fuel production.

The aim of the webinar is to:

Meet the speakers:

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General Assembly 2023

General Assembly 2023

8th to 9th July 2023 in Prague

Practical information

  • When

    8th to 9th July 2023

  • Where

    Prague/Online

  • How

    Register

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We would like to announce that the Annual Meeting and the General Assembly of YEE will take place on from 8th to 9th July 2023 in Prague, Czechia.

We are happy to say that it will take place in person with an option to join in remotely. Hereby, we would like to ask each YEE member organisation to appoint a delegate to represent and vote on behalf of your organisation during the General Assembly (GA).

Food, accommodation, and visa expenses or the duration of the general assembly will be covered in full. Travel expenses will be reimbursed according to the Erasmus+ Programme Guide 2023 (p.152).

How can you join?

  • Member organisations delegates

    Please, fill in this form to nominate a delegate by 31st May 2023. If your delegate requires a visa, please, fill in the form as soon as possible.

  • Guests and YEE team

    To register as a guest / YEE team member, please, use this form by 31st May 2023. The number of places is limited, therefore the spots will be assigned first to the official delegates of the member organisations, and then allocated to guests if available.

Open calls

Board members


Be part of the main decision-making body of the network.


Responsibilities


  • Making all the executive decisions between the Annual Meetings

  • Supervising the implementation of the Work Plan

  • Fulfilling their position's responsibilities

Internal Auditors


Carry out the audit at the YEE office.


Responsibilites


  • Assessing the quality of YEE project implementation

  • Evaluating the work of the Board and Secretaria

  • Providing feedback and suggestions for improvement to the network

Have questions? Get in touch!



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Call for internal auditors 2023/2024 | Volunteering​

Call for internal auditors 2023/2024 | Volunteering

Carry out the audit at the YEE office.
Please apply via the form below before 22nd June 2023, 23:59 CEST

Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) is pleased to announce the open call for the Internal Auditors 2023/2024. The internal auditors will be voted in during our General Assembly 2023.

Who are we looking for:

The Internal Audit (IA) is a monitoring organ. The aims of the IA are:

  • • to assess the quality of YEE project implementation;
  • • to evaluate the work of the Board and Secretariat;
  • • to report the above to the Member Organisations (MOs);
  • • to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement to the network.

The IA is conducted once per year. The internal auditors are expected to carry out the audit at the YEE office for 2 full days at least 60 days before the following General Assembly.

Internal Auditors are entitled to receive 100% reimbursement of travel costs (as long as YEE Travel Policy is respected), accommodation, and vegetarian food for the days when the IA is carried out.

Learn more about each position in our Board Members Policy.

How to apply

All interested candidates are invited to fill in the application form including a CV by the 22nd June 2023, 23:59 CEST .

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us:












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Call for board members 2023/2024 | Volunteering​

Call for board members 2023/2024 | Volunteering

The Board of YEE is the main decision-making body of the network throughout the year.
Please apply via the form below before 28th June 2023, 23:59 CEST

Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) is pleased to announce the open call for the Executive Board 2023/2024. The members of the board will be voted in during ourGeneral Assembly 2023.

Who are we looking for:

The position of a Board Member of YEE is voluntary and remote. All members of the Board assume responsibilities according to the position they take.

The positions are as follows:

  • • Chairperson – governance and chairing of the Board, 
  • • Treasurer – fundraising, External Relations Officer – external partnerships and visibility,
  • • Project Officer – YEE projects,
  • • Communications Officer – YEE newsletter and social media,
  • • Member Organisations Officer – Regional teams and membership management. 
  • • External Relations Officer – Partnerships

Learn more about each position in our Board Members Policy.

What will the position entail:

The Executive Board is responsible for making all the decisions between the Annual Meetings and the implementation of the Work Plan accepted by the General Assembly, together with the Secretariat.

By assuming the position of a Board Member you will

  • • get an excellent opportunity to work in an ambitious multinational team,
  • • get international exposure and hands-on experience in your selected domain.
  • • develop your competencies and acquire a range of skills that will be beneficial for your future,
  • • attain concrete opportunities for your education or career development.

Please take into consideration that the first board meeting will be held online within a week after the General Assembly.

How to apply

All interested candidates are invited to fill in the application form including a CV and nomination letter from any of YEE member organisations by the 22nd June 2023, 23:59 CEST.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us:












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YEE’s Summer Camp on energy policy and environmental law​

YEE's Summer Camp on energy policy and environmental law

Understand issues related to the energy transition and environmental law, and strengthen the capacity of local organisations to push for more ambitious environmental agendas at the local level.

Application deadline: 2nd June 2023

YEE's Summer Camp

Understand issues related to the energy transition and environmental law, and strengthen the capacity of local organisations to push for more ambitious environmental agendas at the local level.

Application deadline: 2nd June 2023

We do not accept applications anymore.

Practical information

  • When

    12 to 16 July 2023

  • Where

    Olomouc, Czechia

  • How

    Register your interest

This event is part of the Legal Seeds 2 and AmPower projects

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What you can expect from the training

Who can apply?

Anyone between the age of 18 and 30 with a keen interest in environmental and energy policy issues

The participation of young people and citizens of Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and Finland will be prioritised, although applications are not geographically limited.

Join our fully funded training opportunity

During the event, YEE will cover accommodation (in a hotel near the city centre of Olomouc, in twin bedrooms), breakfast, 4 lunches and 4 dinners and some coffee breaks. Travel costs will be reimbursed by YEE for up to 200 euros per person (with a possible extension for people travelling from further destinations).

Have questions? Get in touch!



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Advocating for stronger legal protection of rivers in Europe

Advocating for stronger legal protection of rivers in Europe

Why up to 60% of European water bodies are highly polluted?

Rivers - anywhere you are in Europe, there must be a river not far from you. Ancient Greeks would marvel at rivers like Gods. How have we now come to a point in which up to 60% of European water bodies (including rivers) are highly polluted?

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Rivers – anywhere you are in Europe, there must be a river not far from you. Ancient Greeks would marvel at rivers like Gods. How have we now come to a point in which up to 60% of European water bodies (including rivers) are highly polluted?

River Health

The health of water bodies constitutes a major determinant for human food and water quality, which demonstrates how human health is inextricably tied to healthy water body habitats. Rivers, in particular, constitute mobile water bodies which cross vast swathes of Europe while exchanging water, materials, energy and nutrients with their surroundings. Therefore, even though they make up a small percentage of surface freshwater, they have a significant influence on European habitats and their conservation status.

Pollution

Like other surface water bodies, rivers are affected by multiple sources. Point source pollution for example is any identifiable source of pollution, such as wastewater. Its disposal in rivers leads to a high concentration of toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, zinc, lead and copper. Then, diffuse source pollution results from the collective run-off of water used by human activities, particularly in agriculture. It increases the concentration of nitrogen and phosphate in water bodies, which are likely to trigger eutrophication, a situation which adversely threatens biodiversity due to an increased load of nutrients present in the water. Lastly, there are hydromorphological pressures, such as barriers, which may result in habitat alterations which have a series of cascading consequences ranging from higher water temperatures to reduced species’ migration.

Water pollution can have grave consequences for the environment. The safety of drinking water can be jeopardised, entire food chains can be disturbed and there is a likelihood of disease spread (e.g. typhoid, cholera, etc…).

The Water Framework Directive

The European Union, in response to the unfavourable status of water bodies, introduced Directive 2000/60/EC – the Water Framework Directive (WFD) – in 2000.

The purpose of the WFD is “to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater” (Article 1). Through the Directive, the EU, therefore, wishes to promote sustainable water use, enhance the protection of aquatic ecosystems, and ensure the progressive reduction of pollution. Member states are required under Article 4 to issue River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) every 6 years, detailing how they will achieve a good water status. A deadline for publishing RBMPs was originally set for 2015; nevertheless, Article 4(4) provided for the possible extension of the deadline to 2027, which includes two more cycles of RBMPs.

For surface waters – like rivers – good status is dependent on a good ecological and good chemical status. The WFD also specifies that when natural circumstances do not allow a good status to be reached (Article 4(4)), or if the restoration is unfeasible or disproportionately expensive (Article 4(6)), an exception can apply to achieve a good water status. Nevertheless, no deterioration of the status is legally acceptable.

As of 2023, most MS have had difficulty realising the ecological ambitions of the WFD.  Furthermore, according to countries’ RBMPs covering the period up to 2015, good or better ecological status has been achieved for only around 40% of surface waters.  The following section will examine the progress (or regress) of the WFD in more detail.

Challenges to the Water Framework Directive

With only four years left to meet the – extended – WFD deadline, the good status targets seem unlikely to be achieved. A study by the Living Waters Europe Coalition revealed that 90% of river basins studied around the EU will fail to reach the criteria specified in the WFD by 2027. In the same vein, a news headline by WWF revealed that “Europe’s rivers [are] nowhere near healthy by [the] 2027 deadline”. It is also noteworthy that a great deal of the water bodies which presented a good water status in 2015, already had the status before the adoption of the WFD.

Moreover, in September 2021, at least nine MS had still not presented their draft plans for all river basins, and RBMPs studied by WWF and the Living Rivers Europe demonstrated that there has been insufficient funding by MS for the Directive’s implementation. Giakoumis and Voulvoulis (2018)  reveal that although the plan is fit for purpose, socioeconomic contexts and the MS’ institutional settings have restricted the opportunities the WFD has brought to the table. This means that these countries will fail to fulfil legally binding requirements.

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How to Sue a State

How to Sue a State

In conversation with the youth behind the Aurora climate lawsuit

How to sue a state - article

Many climate lawsuits are started by young people, including an ongoing climate lawsuit in Sweden led by a group called Aurora, led by over 600 youth and children, including Greta Thunberg, are involved. Three young people from Aurora share their experiences.

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What is Aurora

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Climate litigation is becoming a hot topic, following an upsurge of legal mobilisations globally. In several countries citizens have come together to sue their states for insufficient climate action, and legal mobilisations have opened up new ways to demand climate justice from those in power. A large share of the lawsuits brought forward are driven by young people, who are suing their states for threatening their future human rights. Examples of recent youth driven climate lawsuits include Juliana v. United States, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and Others and Soubeste et. al v. Austria et. al

We had the opportunity to speak to three young people from the organisation Aurora, who are behind an ongoing climate lawsuit in Sweden. On November 25th 2022, Aurora filed a lawsuit against the Swedish state for insufficient climate policies. More than 600 children and youth are behind the lawsuit, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The youth are condemning Sweden’s climate policies to be illegal, as the targets set by the Swedish state are too slow and insufficient, while the  previously set climate targets remain unachieved. Aurora is thus claiming that Sweden is not treating the climate crisis like a crisis

The district court of Nacka (a town in Sweden where the lawsuit was filed), considered the claims to be clear enough to be tried in court. On the 21st of March 2023 the Nacka District Court issued a summons, upon which the Swedish state will have three months time to respond to the case. The case is treated as a class-action lawsuit, meaning that a large group of people in Aurora will be represented by a few members of the organisation. The Swedish state on the other hand will be represented by the Chancellor of Justice.

We will now hear from three young people from Aurora: Agnes Hjortsberg (21), Anton Foley (20) and Ida Edling (23), who will share their experiences of filing a lawsuit as a group of young people.

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes Hjortsberg

Anton Foley

Anton Foley

Ida Edling

Ida Edling

What breaches are you suing Sweden on?

Ida Edling

Ida

The legal provisions that we say the state has violated is human rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. So we're saying that the Swedish state's lack of sufficient climate measures threatens young people's human rights in the future. We're talking about the human right to life, to health, to dignity, to well-being, to home and to property. And that's Article 2, 3, 8 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights - and it's the first article of the first protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights.

How did you start this process?

Anton Foley​

Anton

A lot of the inspiration to do this came from people who had already done it in other countries. A natural first step, or one of the first steps, was to reach out and make contacts: at the very early stages we had calls and meetings with lawyers and activists who had pursued similar cases in for example Norway, the Netherlands and France. We learned from them both legally how we should approach it, but also how we should approach it organizationally, financially and from a media perspective. And then as we came to terms with what kind of case we wanted to run, or how we should do it, we also had close contact with international climate litigation groups, to sharpen our arguments and learn from their cases.

Thus, I'd say there have been two waves of work:
The first one is just about figuring out what is going on and how we should do this. And then secondly, once we had it more figured out, on the legal and technical side, we could focus on sharpening the arguments.

What type of competences are needed to file this type of lawsuit?

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

In Aurora as an organisation, almost none of the youth and children had any knowledge of how to do something like this from previous experience. Of course, we have law students who manage a lot of the law stuff, but when it comes to funding, media and social media, or how to run an organisation and how to take care of each other, it's something we learn as we go.

Anton Foley​

Anton

And we've collected a network of professionals and people who know what they're doing in lots of different areas. For example: legal experts, climate scientists and public relations people to help us figure out how to get our message out there. But also a lot of climate activists helped us figure out what our actual aims are. Because there are lots of ways you could structure this legally, but not all would be desirable for what we actually want to achieve. Thus, “where are we going” is the first question we need to answer. Then, “what do we want to achieve? “ and thirdly “how can we use law as a tool to achieve that?”

Ida Edling

Ida

I think that the way we have decided to structure our work within the Aurora case is quite unique. And we've heard that from people who have worked with many different climate cases in other countries too, that our work culture is original because we have a very mixed work culture. We are completely led by youth who have no particular academic background, but who are firmly rooted in what we're actually trying to do. Like Anton was saying, the direction we're actually headed in. And then on the same decision making level or level below even, we have the actual competences. So this democratic way of working together from different age groups and different competence levels is unique I think, and has proven to be very dynamic and successful for us.

What would be your advice to a group of young people wanting to start something similar? What is the first thing to start with?

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

One thing we've begun doing is creating a network of youth doing this all over the world. For example we have contacts in Norway, South Korea, Austria, and the Netherlands. I think one of the first steps is to reach out to one of those groups. We've had meetings with new groups, but we have also been the new group in other meetings. I think using the platforms and networks available is a good tool.

Anton Foley​

Anton

Yeah, and I think in general, if you're young and you want to make a difference in this or any social or environmental cause, the most important thing to do is to start from where you are and use whatever expertise, interest and platform you have available to you. And if you have a big idea, just go for it! We were just a group of people who thought this would be a cool thing to do and then we started talking to people who knew what they were doing. And then it took a while but over time we assembled this sort of group. And I think that, it sounds very cliche, but just do it, go for it and see where you end up.

Nobody thinks they're going to start a global movement when for example deciding to school strike. You just do it because it's the right thing to do and then people sort of catch on. So, I think that wherever you are, start affecting change in your community and whatever spaces you are active in, in school, student unions, trade unions, religious groups, and wherever else you are active. Just start making a difference and speaking up in those circles and then see where it takes you.

Ida Edling

Ida

Yeah, educate yourselves, take action and then take inspiration and learn from those who have done similar things before you, because you don't have to reinvent the wheel!

The three steps that we advise other youth groups to take, if they also want to sue their states, is to: First find each other and then find competence, find lawyers and scientists, and then find money. Because you will need money. But also remember that all types of legitimate action is vital for sufficient climate action. So, litigation is one way but every other way is also valuable.

How can other young people or youth organisations support Aurora?

Ida Edling

Ida

The first thing is to do what you're doing, continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, continue to push for urgent action in the climate crisis, continue to try to make people in power see that the way we use Earth today is dangerous and won't last. And try to change that in a way that you're already doing, because that will help us all. We're one movement trying to achieve climate justice and everyone needs to do it in their way and every legitimate way is valuable.

But then if you concretely want to help our particular cause, we are always in need of money, because holding the state accountable for violations of human rights is very, very expensive in Sweden. And so this would not have been possible without extensive economic support from the public, and here every contribution matters.

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

And also if you're a youth in Sweden and you are interested in Aurora, you can also join Aurora! We always need more people!