The EneRail | Podcast

How is our generation responding to the challenges posed by the energy crisis and the imperative for a green transition?

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The Enerail podcast takes us on a captivating virtual journey across the European Union, examining the energy and climate crisis from different perspectives. In a world where the term “we” can be complex and multifaceted, this immersive podcast introduces us to a diverse range of individuals living through this crisis.

Activists, researchers, and institutional youth representatives are just a few of the voices we encounter along the way. As we delve into the heart of this pressing issue, one burning question guides our exploration: How is our generation responding to the challenges posed by the energy crisis and the imperative for a green transition? This thought-provoking podcast provides a comprehensive and nuanced outlook on the realities, insights, and actions that are shaping our present and future.

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Green Hydrogen=Green Flag

Overcoming the limits of batteries with hydrogen energy storage

In this article, we will delve into the exciting world of hydrogen as a potential solution for energy storage, aiming to overcome the current limitations of Lithium Ion Batteries (LIB).

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of YEE.

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The importance of effective storage systems in the transition to renewable energy

A future powered by renewables needs effective storage systems. Unlike fossil fuels, wind and sunlight, two low-carbon energy sources at the centre of the energy transition, have some great limitations: they are intermittent and cannot be stored to be converted into energy later on. A turbine spins only where and when the wind blows, and a solar panel works only under daylight. Learning to work around those limitations can help us abandon fossil fuels faster, which is crucial, given the short time we have left to meet the Paris carbon emission reduction targets. Storage systems can help us overcome these limitations, by offering alternative ways to even out energy supply to the grid and by allowing the electrification of sectors that are not connected to the grid altogether.

In this article, I want to look at one of those systems: hydrogen. More specifically, I want to explore how we can store energy using this material, and see in what ways it can help us overcome some of the limitations of the more commonly used Lithium Ion Batteries (LIB). To do so, I will provide you with an accessible explanation of how hydrogen energy storage works. I will also show that LIBs have three main downsides that hydrogen storage can help mitigate: high impact of raw materials, low gravimetric energy density and limited long-term and high-capacity storage capabilities.

My goal here is not to advocate for the complete abandoning of LIBs, rather, I want to show how in some cases having an alternative can help us achieve the decarbonization of our economy faster.

How can electricity be stored in hydrogen?

Let’s start with the basics. How do you generate electricity with hydrogen? It’s pretty simple. Hydrogen atoms flow through a “fuel cell”, which splits their electrons from their protons and nucleus. The electrons then leave the fuel cell and run through a circuit, powering whatever device they are connected to. The end of the circuit is connected back to the fuel cell, where the electron re-joins the proton and nucleus from which it was split. The hydrogen cell is thus re-formed and, reacting with oxygen in the air, it transforms into water vapour. Of course, this is an oversimplification, for a more accurate, but still very accessible, explanation of the process, I redirect you to this video from Alex Dainis, PhD. Just to be clear, this is not a nuclear reaction, as we are not splitting the nucleus itself.

The next question is where do we get hydrogen from? Due to its highly reactive nature, hydrogen is often bonded to other materials. Thus, we need to extract it from other molecules before we can convert it into energy. There are different ways you can do this. The key things to keep in mind are two. Firstly, these processes take a lot of energy. Secondly, the energy source you use determines the name we give to the final product, together with its carbon footprint. Some examples of carbon-intensive production methods are steam methane reforming and gasification. The output of these processes will be called grey or blue hydrogen (in the second case, a carbon capture mechanism is used to limit emissions).

Another method to produce hydrogen is electrolysis. With the same fuel cell we mentioned before, you can split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, through a process that is exactly symmetrical to what we have described two paragraphs above. To do this, you need electricity. If that is produced from renewable sources you have green hydrogen, which is low carbon.

Now, the round-trip efficiency of green hydrogen is less than one, meaning that the energy you get from it is less than the one you used to produce it. This means that, whenever possible, it is more efficient to use a renewable energy source directly, without hydrogen as an intermediary. Whenever that is not possible, however, one can produce hydrogen as a way to store and transport energy. First, clean electricity is used to perform electrolysis. Then the resulting hydrogen is reconverted back into water when and where electricity is needed. Through this process, hydrogen can be used as a stock of electricity that can be displaced in space and time to better match our energy demands.

Obstacles to decarbonizing the economy using batteries

As you know, batteries can also be used to store and transport energy. Some of their limitations, however, pose important obstacles to our ability to fully decarbonize our economy. Hydrogen can help us overcome those obstacles.

High impact of raw materials

Firstly, the raw materials required to manufacture LIBs pose environmental, social and geopolitical challenges that become more and more pressing as the scale of production of this technology increases. Lithium and cobalt are two materials used in LIBs. Lithium mining, on the one hand, has a water footprint of more than 2000 liters per kilogram extracted. The practice has also been linked with “declining vegetation, hotter daytime temperatures and increasing drought conditions in national reserve areas”. Cobalt mines, on the other hand, are notoriously infamous for the terrible working conditions of their workers. At the same time, both materials are to be found in only a couple of regions throughout the world. This creates perverse incentives to adopt hoarding strategies, which artificially push up the price of these resources. Such a high level of concentration also decreases the resilience of the supply chain to unforeseeable external shocks, decreasing the long-term reliability of the industry as a whole.

Hydrogen, like lithium, can be used to store energy, however, unlike lithium, it is not a rare material and can be extracted with carbon-neutral technologies. Consequently, replacing some of the current and future demand for batteries with hydrogen-based solutions can reduce our consumption of these materials, and with that the challenges that they come with. This can also diversify the energy storage supply chain, increasing its ability to withstand exogenous shocks. Hydrogen systems also do not use cobalt.

Of course, this is only a part of the solution, the issues I have highlighted above need to be addressed independently of the fact that we introduce hydrogen in the equation. Nonetheless, this technology can help us reduce the scale of the problem. With this, it should also be noted that, while hydrogen is not a rare material, iridium and platinum (two materials often used in fuel cells) are. These materials come with their own environmental problems, which further proves that technical diversification is only part of the solution. The social and environmental patterns of exploitation behind mining need to be addressed, regardless. That, however, is a broader conversation that pertains to our economy as a whole.

Low gravimetric energy density 

Secondly, the low energy density of LIB makes them unsuitable as an alternative to fossil fuels in some applications. The aviation industry is an example of this issue. The table below shows the energy density of different materials, i.e., the amount of Megajoules stored in one kilogram of material ( = gravimetric density) and the amount of Megajoules in one litre of material ( = volumetric density).

Material Gravimetric energy density* Volumetric energy density Energy efficiency
Jet A1 (kerosene)
43.3 MJ/Kg
Hydrogen
142 MJ/Kg
LIBs
0.5 MJ/Kg

As you can see, compared to Jet A-1 (a common aviation fuel), a LIB providing the same amount of energy as an airplane’s fuel tank would be 86 times as heavy. Emily Pickrell, Energy Scholar at the University of Houston estimates that “if a jumbo jet were to use today’s batteries, 1.2 million pounds of batteries would be required just to generate the power of the jet engine it would be replacing. This weight would effectively need an additional eight jet planes just to carry that weight!”.

Consequently, replacing jet fuel with an equivalently powerful battery would make the plane too heavy to fly. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is more energy-dense than both LIBs and Jet A-1. Thus, it can provide the same amount of energy at a much lower weight.

Hydrogen’s energy density makes it a much better match for the electrification of the aviation industry than batteries. There are, however, some limitations to the potential of this gas. If we look at its volumetric energy density, a hydrogen tank would take 4 times as much space as a Jet A-1 providing equivalent energy. And this is assuming we are able to keep the gas in its liquid form at -252.8°C. Together with this, to this day the round-trip efficiency of hydrogen systems is still much lower than that of batteries. Finally, hydrogen aircraft are still in the early stages of development, meaning that we still need to wait for the large-scale commercial adoption of these vehicles.

Limited long-term and high-capacity storage capabilities

Finally, LIBs are less efficient at storing higher quantities of energy for longer periods of time than hydrogen systems. In some applications, we need this longer-term storage capacity. One case is that of intermittent energy storage.

As I said before, renewables’ energy supply cannot be adjusted to the specific demands of consumers and producers at any given moment. To address this, storage devices allow us to stock up energy in moments of excess supply, in order to release it back into the grid in periods of excess demand. Intermittency, however, is a multidimensional phenomenon that has a short-run and long-run component: fluctuations in supply can be intraday or seasonal. Looking at solar energy makes it easier to understand both. As the sun shines only during the daytime, at night panels will not produce any electricity. That is intra-day intermittency. At the same time, during summer days are longer, and, in many climates, less cloudy. Thus, output will be higher during June, July and August than it will during winter (as shown by the table below). This is what we call seasonality.

LIBs are more effective at smoothing intraday fluctuations. Battery storage facilities are cheaper to install, but more expensive to scale up, making them more suited for smaller capacity applications. Their higher round trip efficiency (look at the table above) also means that less energy is wasted in the process. Due to their higher rate of self-discharge, however, they cannot store electricity for prolonged periods of time, making them useless when it comes to seasonal intermittency. At the same time, hydrogen is better suited to supply that higher capacity, long term storage facility needed to smooth out seasonal fluctuations. On the one hand, hydrogen deposits show increasing returns to scale. They can be more costly than batteries to set up, but doubling capacity less than doubles the cost. This makes the technology better suited for higher capacity stockage. On the other, hydrogen has a lower rate of self-discharge, meaning that it can store energy for longer. These two characteristics make this technology a useful tool to smooth out seasonality, even when we account for its lower round trip efficiency (being able to store something is better than being able to store nothing).

To conclude, we can see that hydrogen can help overcome three important limitations of LIBs: high impact of raw materials, low gravimetric energy density and limited long-term and high-capacity storage capabilities. Nonetheless, the analysis also shows that hydrogen technology is still in its earlier stages of development. Consequently, important challenges need to be overcome before this technology can be deployed at scale. If used together, batteries and hydrogen will have a central role in facilitating the energy transition.


I would like to thank Tuur Knevels, who provided some crucial support in the drafting of this article. He is a passionate young engineer who has been active in the hydrogen and automotive industry for the past 3 years and is currently completing his degree in Aerospace Engineering whilst working as a freelance fuel cell systems engineer. We met back in July during the in-person training we organised as part of the AmPower Project. Of course, any potential incoherence in this analysis is solely attributable to me.


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Green Hydrogen=Green Flag

Liaison Officers | Volunteering

We are looking for 4 volunteers to join our Advocacy Working Group! Could this be the position for you?
Please apply via the form before September 6th 23h59 CEST.

What is expected of a Liaison Officer?

The Liaison Officer is a volunteer position of one year term (October 2023 – October 2024). All liaison volunteers will report to and be supported by the YEE Advocacy staff (Volunteers Coordinator, Advocacy Coordinator and Project Leads) and the External Relations Officer. While committed to specific and diverse tasks, the volunteer liaison officers will effectively make a team – the Advocacy Working Group – intended to support each other and work with the staff. 

The average time commitment is between 7-10 hours a week, including meetings every two weeks with the External Relations Officer, Volunteers Coordinator, Advocacy Coordinator and Project Leads.

Some of the work tasks expected involve strengthening communication and advocacy with some of our partner organisations as well as creating projects and campaigns of their own.

Who are we looking for?

The Liaison Officer should:

What are the benefits of being a Liaison Officer?

What you can gain from this experience:

Open Positions for the period: October 2023-October 2024

Environmental Law and LitigationLiaison Officer on Environmental Law 

The aim of the Environmental Law Liaison Officer is to help YEE’s work on environmental law and litigation topics and the work on the Aarhus Convention. This person would work closely with the Volunteers Coordinator, the Project Lead and the Project Assistant on environmental law on the Legal Seeds 3 project; and with other Liaison Officers when legal topics are involved, such as with the Oceans and Biodiversity portfolios. The Env. Law Liaison Officer will also work with others on targeted campaigns (e.g. #restorenature) and advocacy initiatives at international and EU level.

A lot of the work would be linked to making environmental law accessible for young people through writing; familiarising with the Aarhus Convention processes and strengthening YEE position there; helping creating partnerships with youth and non youth organisations active in environmental law matters and learning the basics of fundraising. Finally, the volunteer will explore opportunities to promote knowledge and join or launch advocacy campaigns related to the achievement of more stringent legal targets and actions envisaged by the EU Green Deal.

The main topics covered by the environmental law portfolio include the EU Green Deal and its implementation (National Energy & Climate Plans and the FF55); climate litigation; the Aarhus Convention; the Nature Restoration Law and the Right to a Healthy Environment. However, your ideas and interests are of course welcome!

The main tasks will include: 

  • Help our members to engage with our work on environmental law, through liaising and working on our relationship with Member Organisations and partner organisations;
  • Help work with the Project Lead and Project Assistant on Environmental Law on content creation, such as articles and webinars;
  • Support YEE work on the Aarhus Convention processes;
  • Contribute to the general YEE advocacy strategy, such as through participating on behalf of YEE to legal campaigns and external events

YEE Ocean conservation logoLiaison Officer on Ocean Conservation

In the context of the Ocean Conservation portfolio, the Liaison Officer will engage with and consolidate relationships with ocean-related international advocacy campaigns, such as within the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC). They will be able to engage in the dissemination of knowledge to a wide audience, while also getting involved in international collaboration and promotion of youth participation in the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Instrument adopted under the UNCLOS framework. They can, in this context and in the context of other potential issues and international processes, seek active collaboration with existing partners like GYBN and NYBN Oceans group. Exploring involvement in other ocean- and water-related processes and issues is of course a possibility and is open to the Liaison Officer’s expertise, interest, and capacity.

The Liaison Officer will regularly communicate with other portfolios, and especially the Biodiversity, Environmental Governance, and Climate Crisis portfolios, fostering collaborative campaigns and initiatives where thematic priorities intersect. Examples of this are the BBNJ Treaty process, as well as the international negotiations towards the adoption of a legally-binding Plastics Treaty under the auspices of UNEP, addressing the Ocean-Climate nexus under the UNFCCC COP process.

At the EU level, the Liaison Officer will represent YEE as supporting organisation to Surfrider Foundation Europe’s Blue-Up 2024 campaign for EU Parliamentary elections. The volunteer will explore opportunities to promote knowledge and join or launch advocacy campaigns related to the achievement of ocean-related targets and actions envisaged by the EU Green Deal – ranging from the Common Fisheries Policy to the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The LO will also support the implementation of the EU4Ocean Coalition for Ocean Literacy project.

The main tasks will include:

  • Contribute to the YEE advocacy strategy, by participating in campaigns, liaising with partners, and representing YEE in external events;
  • Create ocean-related content and blog articles to be published by YEE;
  • Represent the YEE network in the Youth4Ocean Forum and EU4Ocean Platform, especially by taking active part in the youth-led initiatives carried out by the Youth4Ocean Forum community;
  • The LO will also contribute to the implementation of the EU4Ocean Coalition for Ocean Literacy project in accordance with the Oceans Project Lead, supporting the planning of key events and tasks, helping in mapping and liaising with relevant youth networks, initiatives, and youth-led projects in Europe.

YEE Sustainable energy logoLiaison Officer on Sustainable Energy

The Liaison Officer on Sustainable Energy will help to create a stronger basis of Energy knowledge with YEE and to implement and carry out relevant advocacy initiatives and relations on the topic. They will work closely with the Volunteers Coordinator, the Project Lead and the Project Assistant on energy. A great part of the mandate will be to provide support and insights to the Ampower project, the project at YEE dedicated to energy and support the team’s effort to create a knowledge bank on energy transition and the energy crisis.

The Sustainable Energy Liaison Officer would also liaise with other youth and non-youth organisations working on energy-related topics, such as the European Youth Energy Network, the EEB, GCE and CAN-Europe and provide assistance with the teams involvement with UN working groups. The Energy Liaison Officer will also have the possibility to explore opportunities to promote knowledge and join or launch advocacy campaigns related to the increase of sustainable energy targets in the EU. Personal ideas and insights on how to develop the portfolio are more than welcome!

The main tasks will include: 

  • Draft articles on several key points necessary to understand the complexity of energy transition and the ins and outs of the energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
  • Create a weekly news update on energy matters (Showcasing new interesting projects, new technologies relevant to the energy transition, updates on new national, European and International legislations, and other relevant news).
  • Help our members to engage with our work on energy, through liaising and working on our relationship with Member Organisations and partner organisations;
  • Contribute to the general YEE advocacy strategy, such as through participating on behalf of YEE to energy-related campaigns and external events.

Liaison Officer on Green Finance 

We are excited to say that we also opened a position for a Liaison Officer on Green Finance!

The role of the Liaison Officer 

The Green Finance Liaison will act as a key contact point between YEE and external stakeholders in regards to all matters pertaining to Green Finance. Additionally, during the first phase of the project the volunteer should search for existing projects or work on green finance carried out by other youth organisations with the purpose of increasing capacity on the project and building a coalition of youth organisations active on the topic.

The liaison officer’s main activity will be to provide desktop research to identify important financial actors involved in green finance, in order to monitor financial flows in relation to climate action and energy transitions, with a particular focus on tracking investment banks and their involvement in sustainable initiatives. In cooperation with the communications team, the Liaison Officer will provide regular updates which will be published on social media and on a dedicated page of YEE’s website.

In parallel, the Liaison Officer should keep track of the main policy discussions in the green finance sector and help YEE identify key stakeholders responsible for national, European and International level policy-making to identify where YEE can advocate for further youth involvement.

Finally, throughout the project, and based on the knowledge gathered, the Liaison Officer will create some educational content destined to be shared with YEE’s network as training material.

The main tasks will include

  • In cooperation with the communications team, build a webpage on YEE’s website dedicated to green finance content;
  • Identify meetings, networks and coalitions that currently allow for youth participation;
  • List key stakeholders in international organisations, NGOs and actors of the private sector that are involved in key green investment processes for coalition building; and help YEE advocate for greater youth inclusion in the sector.
  • Engage in desktop research on financial flows in regard to the climate and energy transition.
  • Help in content creation for our social media, such as drafting short posts throughout the project destined to educate our young audience on green finance;

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

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We are looking for Liaison Officers | Volunteering

When youth sue the state

Conversation with the people behind the Aurora climate lawsuit

When youth sue the state

A conversation with the people behind the Aurora climate lawsuit

Practical information

  • When

    Tuesday 4th July at 16.45h CEST

  • Where

    Online

  • How

    Register your interest

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What is climate litigation and why is it becoming more and more prevalent in youth climate activism? What do we mean with “climate activism through the rule of law”? What are the challenges faced by youth groups who decided to take States to court for climate inaction?

These and many more questions will be addressed during our workshop, which will provide the basics of climate litigation and an interactive conversation with a representative of the youth behind the Aurora climate lawsuit and of the Sweden’s Environmental Association of Law (SEAL)!

Agenda of the event:

  • Introduction to Climate LitigationWhat is it? How does it work?
  • The Aurora Climate Case: A conversation with Ida Edling, the legal and scientific coordinator of Aurora
  • Presentation of Sweden’s Environmental Association of Law
  • Q&A
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When youth sue the state​ | Workshop

INC-2: a session for nothing?

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

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A new phase of the international treaty to end plastic pollution negotiations took place in Paris, at UNESCO headquarters, from May 29 to June 2, 2023.

Plastic has become one of the most significant sources of water and soil pollution.

According to the latest OECD figures, 460 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year.  This figure has doubled since 2000 and is set to triple by 2060. 

Although several countries have taken measures to deal with plastic waste, such as the European Union with its Directive on single-use plastic in 2019, or Rwanda in 2008, which was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags, 75% of the plastic waste found in the oceans comes from poor waste management. Indeed, most countries do not have the infrastructure to manage their own plastic waste. 

Others, like Japan, export over 90% of their plastic waste to developing countries that have no means of recycling it. Plastic waste is at best burnt, at worst abandoned in the wild, creating huge open-air dumps. China produces 32% of the world’s plastic, a leap of 82% in ten years. What’s more, 10% of the world’s plastic is emitted by soda giants Coca and Pepsi

Finally, the treaty is also part of the drive to move away from fossil fuels, as plastic is a direct derivative of petroleum.

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

The Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a landmark resolution in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2022 with a view to negotiating a legally binding global treaty to combat plastic pollution by the end of 2024. It will be based on a comprehensive approach covering the entire life cycle of plastics. To achieve this, five working sessions are planned, the first of which was held in Uruguay in November 2022. This first session laid the groundwork for future discussions by identifying the expectations and ambitions of the main delegations, with France hosting the second negotiating session.

An urgent treaty, yet negotiated at a snail’s pace

The second negotiation session got off to a rocky start, with more than two days lost on protocol issues. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, and India clashed with the presidency over whether or not to resort to voting in the event of a lack of unanimity in the future consideration of a draft treaty. The resolution of the controversy was postponed.

Finally, after a week, the Committee decided that “The International Negotiating Committee [INC] requests its Chairman to prepare, with the assistance of the Secretariat, a draft first version of the legally binding international treaty“. The text will be examined in November at the third meeting of this committee in Nairobi, then in April 2024 in Canada, and in November 2024 in South Korea, with the aim of a definitive treaty by the end of 2024.

Non-governmental observers

The treaty process includes the possibility for non-governmental observers to attend almost all the negotiations. However, at the Paris session, due to the size of the room, only one person per NGO could be present. Despite a statement signed by many associations, the length of the negotiations did not allow many NGOs to make any comments. It is therefore very important to follow the treaty news on the United Nations Environment Programme page, and the CIEL page which is in charge of coordinating the youth NGO accredited to the treaty.

An urgent treaty, yet negotiated at a snail’s pace – that’s how we might sum up this second phase of negotiations. We can only hope that future negotiations in Nairobi will be more prolific. In particular, the 175 countries will have to agree on the definition of plastic waste and the potential creation of a fund to help developing countries manage this waste. 

And finally, there remains the thorny question of plastic waste already in the environment: who will be responsible for paying for its management?

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INC-2: a session for nothing?

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. 

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

“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 Tweet

“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 Tweet
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 Tweet

“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 Tweet

“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) Tweet

“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 Tweet

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 Tweet

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

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

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?

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

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

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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.

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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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Intersectional Ecofeminism

A Paramount Approach In Environmental Activism

Intersectional Ecofeminism
We have all heard activists and seen studies claim that women lead better and are peacemakers as they favour intuition and collaboration, so, could ecofeminism really be the ultimate solution for the environmental debacle we are facing?

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Intersectional Ecofeminism
Intersectional Ecofeminism
Intersectional Ecofeminism

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“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.” – Vandana Shiva.  

Many women have been remarkably stepping into environmental advocacy spaces to make their voices heard, but how important is it to integrate both feminism and climate activism in our advocacy discourse?

We have all heard activists and seen studies claim that women lead better and are peacemakers as they favour intuition and collaboration, so, could ecofeminism really be the ultimate solution for the environmental debacle we are facing?

The birth of ecofeminism

As we all may know, women are one of the main groups that are at the frontline of climate activism since they are particularly affected by the environmental crisis (80% of the people being displaced by climate change are women according to UN Environment), which is why special attention towards women and the climate change effects on them is needed. This is notably explored by ecofeminism.

The term ‘ecofeminism’ was first coined by the renowned French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne, who described it to be a branch of feminism that explores the connections between women and nature. What is also interesting about Ecofeminism is that it digs deeply into how both women and the environment are at risk as a result of the patriarchal rule. As a matter of fact, patriarchy has always been strongly linked with capitalism which explains the simultaneous exploitation of both natural resources and women as a social class.

Some not-so-fun facts worth mentioning are that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40% of the poorest households are headed by women. Women predominate in the world’s food production (50%-80%), but they own less than 10% of the land.

Ecofeminism is believed to be more respectful of nature and women as it decenters males and abolishes hierarchies, men are then not thought to be superior to women or nature. Although ecofeminism originated in Europe, the actual movement started in the USA during the late 1970s and early 1980s, where it took a more inclusive turn as it coincided with the rise of intersectional feminism. Intersectional ecofeminism holistically plunges into the living conditions of women from different backgrounds and dissects the inequalities they endure through an environmentalist lens. It is then considered to be the ideal activistic paradigm. 

Why intersectionality is a necessity

While addressing the struggles of women in the context of climate change, the term “women” tends to be vague as they are not a homogeneous group, they actually exist on a large spectrum that should be meticulously analysed hence the need for an intersectional approach.

Intersectionality sheds light on different issues faced by various women, such as the different geographical contexts. As a matter of fact, women face different challenges based on where they’re from. For example, in areas that are prone to droughts, women often face different struggles than men. Environmental degradation such as droughts often leads to economic instability, and as a result, women may have to give up on resources such as education in order to support the family.

Ecofeminism recognises how gender roles make us experience our environment and nature differently, and how different gender roles may experience different consequences.  Another example is how women in some contexts are forced to travel long distances to collect fuel, food, and water which subjects them to security risks and gender-based violence. Moreover, in Mexico and Central America between 2016 and 2019, about 1,698 acts of violence were recorded against female human rights defenders.

Different journeys equal different constraints

All struggling communities should then be provided with a platform that allows them to speak up about their experiences and share their stories that are a testament to their resilience. We can never do justice to the representation of the different journeys led by different women in the context of climate change, however, the best we can do is to make their names known, especially the non-white and underrated ones like Isatou Ceesay, Vandana Shiva, Susan Chomba, Sônia Guajajara and many others.

Going back to the initial question, women have the ability to make this world a better place: they are the backbones of their communities and the shapers of the future that we can’t overlook the importance of their role in eradicating the climate crisis, empowering them locally and globally could definitely revolutionise our dystopian foreseeable future.

So, if you were to envision a non-patriarchal world where women were predominantly leaders, don’t you also think that our history and present would have been vastly different? 

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If you want to explore this topic more, check out the podcast “Outrage + Optimism”, episode number 191.

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