Liberalisation of the energy sector | Webinar Recap

Overview of the EU’s legislative system and the energy sector liberalisation

European Energy Sector
Learn about the positive and negative outcomes of the liberalisation process, and how energy communities could play a major role in the green transition.

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Liberalisation of the energy sector

The liberalisation of the European energy sector was the continuation of the European Union’s effort to create a European single market.

The underlying idea is that the creation of an economic union would naturally bring European countries closer together leading to further political integration, thus guaranteeing peaceful inter-state relations.

The main purpose of the liberalisation process was to organise the provision of electricity and gas more efficiently by introducing competitive forces where possible and regulation where needed.

Main barrier to the liberalisation of the energy sector

Up until the 90’s the energy sector was structured around national monopolies preventing any kind of competition to emerge.

A major step in this process was thus to break down national monopolies or what is referred to as “unbundling”.

The first “unbundling” obligations appeared with the 1st energy package (1996-98) and required the separation of generation, transmission, distribution, and retail activities.

Secondly, to increase cross-border exchanges the EU massively invested in interconnections. The European interconnected grid is now the largest in the world with 400 interconnectors (cross border pipeline and electric cables) linking 600 million citizens.

What are the results of this process?

Positive aspects
Negative aspects

What are Energy Communities (or energy cooperative)?

Legal entities of citizens getting together around an energy transition project.

They run around 7 main principles :

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Why are they so relevant to the energy transition?

It is estimated that half of the European citizens could produce their own electricity, covering about 45 % of the overall electricity demand.

89 % of the population could get involved in some energy system activity (for instance with the spreading of electric cars, households could offer energy storage services. Modern appliances like smart metres, remote control thermostats, electric vehicles etc. can offer demand response services*)

Energy cooperatives can get involved in a wide range of activities such as

Production • Supply • Distribution • Flexibility •Storage • Demand response •Energy monitoring •District heating • Transportation – E-car sharing • Energy savings – Collective home retrofits

*demand response: increased flexibility from the demand side to adapt consumption to the available generation.
On top of the technical advantages that the multiplication of energy communities could bring, these structures also fulfil a major social element of the green transition: Citizen engagement. The green transition is not only about switching from dirty to clean energy sources it is rethinking our entire economy and our consumption pattern. By giving the opportunity to our citizens to get directly involved in the energy chain, we create a population more aware of its own consumption and conscient of the behavioral changes needed to achieve our ambitious climate targets.

Major barriers to the creation of energy communities:

  •  • Access to funding
  •  • Lack of upfront investments and specific skills: Volunteer-based & lack financial skills. More risk aversion.
  •  • Lack of knowledge from financing institutions: banks don’t recognize the new and innovative business models of energy communities
  •  • Lack of streamlined/stable Government financing mechanisms: public finance can de-risk and mobilise further community & private capital

Want to learn more?

Watch this video explanation of the virtue of energy communities

 

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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

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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? 

Recommendations

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

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We need more women in our community

Rahim Zehdiev, a 27-year-old volunteer and green ambassador at Young Improvers for Youth Development in Smolyan, Bulgaria, is passionate about creating positive changes in his community and empowering young people, particularly in environmental issues. He is involved in various projects aiming to address environmental challenges and empower young individuals from marginalised communities.

 

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

I am Rahim Zehdiev, a 27-year-old volunteer and a green ambassador at Young Improvers for Youth Development in Smolyan, Bulgaria. As a member of a marginalised group, I have always been passionate about creating positive changes and empowering communities, especially when it comes to environmental issues. 

What are the projects you are working on?

So I got involved with the Young Improvers through their initiative focused on environmental sustainability and youth development. And their mission aligns with my own values and aspirations and I saw an opportunity to make a meaningful impact in my community. I’m involved in their projects like in Erasmus and in European Solidarity Corps. So, I see it as though it’s my own mission.

What’s the mission about? 

It’s like a mission because I see the need for change in our community, in our local community and in our community in Bulgaria as well. I want to start involving young people in these projects. So they get empowered and we can together aim for a change. 

What kind of communities are you engaging? 

I come from a community of Muslim population, we are a minority in Bulgaria. And we face a lot of problems. Things are changing for the better, but we have a lot of issues from the past.

I’m addressing these problems right now with the European projects. When we attend projects abroad, we meet people like us and together, we find better solutions for our problems, because we have a lot of similar issues. And it gives us a shared sense of belonging for us when we share our problems. 

How do you engage the local minority?

We are trying to involve a lot of young people in my village, in the area around as well, by attracting them with a lot of things, because nowadays people are not too engaged. We find it difficult to find people who are willing to do activism and volunteer because they are easily distracted by everything else. And it’s even harder in my community because they are marginalised, and they have a lot of different views from the ordinary European people. That is because they are more conservative than the regular Europeans. And it’s very hard, but we find some ways to attract them. 

But it’s even more difficult to have a gender balance. We are a lot of boys, and we have like one, two, or three girls in the group. So firstly it’s hard to find people, and then it’s hard to strike a gender balance and to battle the conservative views. It’s really hard, but we are improving every day, and we are finding people in the end.

What do your projects look like? 

So our project is aiming to address environmental challenges and empower young individuals from marginalized communities. Our projects involve various activities such as awareness campaigns, educational workshops, and community engagement initiatives. So the projects are created to amplify the voices of those who are often underrepresented or misunderstood in the environmental movement and sustainable change.

What does activism mean to you?

Activism is really important for me because it is the main thing which can change things, and is the force to change something from bad to the better. And that’s exactly what we are trying to do here in my village, in the region, and in Bulgaria as well. 

Can you tell me about your personal journey?

Back in 2018, I participated in a project in Turkey in an Erasmus training course and it was the very first experience of these projects for me and that’s when everything started for me. Before that I didn’t know anything about activism, I didn’t know anything about volunteering and then with each new project I participated in, I started to be more active and to volunteer. First of all in our local community, in local projects and then abroad with the YEE team and I have participated in more than 20 projects since then. On the local level I even applied for our own projects and even had my own project in my village for building a youth space here.

What’s next for you?

I am thinking about applying for more projects. I will also participate in some projects with our partners in Europe and abroad. But the local projects are the most important for me.

“Because we have to change ourselves first, then we can share good examples abroad.”

What kind of projects would you want to do in your community right now? 

I want to make a screening event to project a movie against the plastic waste in our youth space. I want to play that movie because there is a big issue with plastic waste. Especially older people think that plastic is degradable in water and they throw the trash into the river. We have great nature here but the people do not appreciate it and they’re throwing everything into the river and it gets really messed up. 

So I’m not only trying to gain younger people, I’m trying to show even the eldest people here what is wrong. We host a lot of movie screenings, seminars and meetings. We also hosted a climate-themed game. 

What was the idea of the game?

It was a card game about climate change, what are its causes and how can we prevent it. It was really nice and a lot of young people gathered but sadly there were no women. This really saddened me, but I’m trying to improve this. I’m trying to fix this and I will do it. 

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

We need change. And we can be the change, because if we don’t act, if we don’t get involved, no one will. And the change is not going to happen by itself. It’s not easy, I know, but we can do it.

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15th Task Force on Access to Justice | Statements of the Environmental Law Team

The Environmental Law Team of YEE actively participated in the 15th Task Force on Access to Justice in Geneva, sharing valuable insights.

The Environmental Law Team of YEE participated in the 15th Task Force on Access to Justice, which took place in Geneva from 4 to 5 April 2023. During the meeting, Emma and Alex delivered their statements, contributing to the exchange of information and best practices regarding the implementation of the Aarhus Convention’s access to justice pillar.

The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate the exchange of information, experiences, and best practices related to the implementation of the Convention’s access to justice pillar. The focus of the meeting was on access to justice in cases concerning climate change and biodiversity protection, with discussions covering current trends, barriers, challenges, good practices, and innovative approaches in these areas.

Aarhus Taskforce statement by YEE

Summary of Emma’s statement regarding the tools to promote Access to Justice

The latest IPCC report emphasizes that climate change will mainly impact children and young people, highlighting the need for long-term considerations and intergenerational equity in environmental legislation. Young people also face challenges in exercising their rights under the Aarhus Convention. The Aarhus Convention is important for environmental democracy, granting the public rights in environmental matters to protect the rights of present and future generations. Strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue can ensure easier youth access to decision-making processes and hold institutions accountable.

It is extremely urgent to safeguard access to justice in energy-related cases, especially in light of the acceleration the energy transition is going through: its fast pace leaves big gaps and errors, and the Aarhus Convention has a crucial role in filling them.

Summary of Alex’s statement regarding Access to Justice in energy-related cases

Dependency on fossil fuel imports hampers energy independence and is finite, posing a threat to future generations. The Aarhus provisions play a crucial role in ensuring that energy supply in the EU has a positive impact on nature and communities. However, legislative proposals may impede access to justice in energy-related cases, prioritising renewable energy development over environmental protection and community engagement. The Aarhus rights, including access to justice, play a crucial role in promoting renewable energy, environmental protection, and public participation.

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15th Task Force on Access to Justice | Statements of the Environmental Law Team

We need to find a reason to grow

Disclaimer

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

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Mihai Oancea, a young Romanian from a traditional Roma community, is a founder of the youth NGO, ROMA T.E.A.M. Association. They offer mentorship programs and screening activities for vulnerable communities, with a focus on empowering young people. Mihai’s vision is to create community centers for education and mental health, and he believes that Roma people should be involved in different contexts to fight against racism and make the community more inclusive.

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

My name is Oancea Mihai. I’m from Romania. I’m 27 years old, and I’m currently living in Bucharest, but I’m from Argeș County, from a traditional Roma community. 

What are the projects you are working on?

I have a youth NGO called ROMA T.E.A.M. Association, but I’m also working for another NGO. I work for the Roma Center for Health Policies-Sastipen in Bucharest. I engage with a lot of Roma and non-Roma communities in screening activities of people from rural and urban areas, but mainly focusing on vulnerable situations. Us, as the young people working there, we found out that the young generation there is not active at all within the communities. 

After visiting a lot of different communities, we concluded that we should help. We started a mentorship program in some of the communities that we have been involved in. And after the program was set up, we wanted to carry on. We decided to open a youth NGO, a Roma youth NGO, but not helping just Roma people, because were going for diversity.

We tried to gather resources in order to attract young people. We are trying to grow the organisation into working at the grassroots level with the people. So we have so many plans, but we will take it step by step. 

How are you attracting young people to join you? 

All of us come from rural communities. We are Roma people. We are also non-Roma people. We have been there. We know how it is. We know how to handle difficult situations and how to attract people. Because we have been in their situation. This is the key that we are using in order to work with them. 

What about your personal journey? How did you get to where you are?

One day, someone from an organisation called me, asking me to deliver some packages for the kids at the Christmas market. And I knew the organisation was working with people with fewer opportunities in vulnerable situations. And I’ve been there as well. 

I knew how the people were feeling. I asked the project coordinator if I could help out with something or if I could do something for the children.

I wanted to be a volunteer. I started to volunteer with the children. I was doing their homework with them. I was providing them with food to eat and then cleaning after them. And they started to call me a teacher. It was a big step for me, wow, they are calling me a teacher. 

It was a very nice opportunity to try to get more involved in other people’s lives, especially with the young people, Roma and non-Roma people. 

When I moved to Bucharest for university I knew someone who, at the time, was working for the first Roma organisation from Bucharest. I became a volunteer there and I participated in their projects. I met a lot of people. 

Then I visited a youth NGO and I saw something different from what I had done before. I wanted to get more involved. I got involved with the Romanian Roma Youth Civic Union, a nationally known organisation, where I continued to work for young people, especially for Roma youth. For a few years, I organised activities such as youth forum rights and human rights activities. 

I enrolled in the postgraduate program here in Bucharest, and I started to work for the Roma Centre for Health Policies-Sastipen. Here we started creating new opportunities and meeting new people. That is how I ended up opening a youth NGO for Roma people and continuing working for the old NGO in the health sector. 

What is your vision?

When we started the NGO, we felt that we needed to do a different kind of work, that was more grassroots level. We are working at the grassroots level and trying to empower young people, as well as working with parents from rural communities.

“What we aim to do is try to change the mentality of the people, to show them new opportunities, to empower them to shape their own future, knowing they can decide what to do with their future and that they have a right to it. “

We go to the rural communities, we work with the children and as they grow up, they know that they will have opportunities. Their teachers and parents will also be involved in their personal development, this is the key.

What is your strategy? 

We would like to have a community centre, not just one, but one for each area that we work in. That is a big plan for the future.

For the moment, we want to focus on small communities and grow step by step. We are involving the local authorities in the young people’s education and we try to work with the teachers because they are key in supporting students with their studies and letting them know that it is important to believe in themselves. We also want to start focusing more on mental health. We are part of the French Embassy and Youth French Council from Romania where we applied for a project focusing on mental health.

We chose a high school from Bucharest, to have a pilot project. It is very important to start talking about mental health in these communities, as Roma people experience a lot of discrimination and this is one part of the puzzle to combat it. Focusing on mental health is very important in order for the students to be motivated to go to school, to try to and see other things in their life.

If you could send a message to the young people out there, what would it be?

I would have wanted to know about the opportunities that were out there back in my childhood. I didn’t know that I had the opportunity to get educated about my financial situation, personal development and other things. The thing is that we need to find a reason to grow. We need to find a reason to go to school and we need to find a reason to see life with new eyes. 

And we need to search for that, not just stay in one place waiting for it. Try to look for the things that you need in your life. Try to communicate more with your parents, with your teacher, and with yourself, it’s very important. 

Try to work with yourself. Get to know yourself. Try to see what are the challenges in your life in order to challenge them. 

Transform yourself. Go for the opportunities.

The Erasmus Plus project is helping a lot. This is an opportunity to show young people with fewer opportunities other perspectives of life, to meet new people, experience new cultures, and share theirs. 

“When I first went to an Erasmus Plus project, I met Roma people from Greece. I’m Roma from Romania. We spoke the Romani language.  It was like a revelation. Look what happened. Look how nice it is.”

Erasmus Plus projects are also an important opportunity to involve people and try to insert themselves in new contexts. It gives them the opportunity to consider that they can be a teacher, they can be a doctor, they can become a lawyer. 

As a Roma community, we have experienced a lot of discrimination, racism, and slavery, and we have been through the holocaust. I want to be there when people learn about that. I want to see the young generation spreading the information in order to fight against racism and make the community more inclusive so that people can understand us better. We are not different. We have been there in war, we have been there at the dawn of society. We have a culture and we have perspectives. 

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Introducing Rahim | Showcasing the Unheard

Rahim Zehdiev, a 27-year-old volunteer and green ambassador at Young Improvers for Youth Development in Smolyan, Bulgaria, is passionate about creating positive changes in his community and empowering young people, particularly in environmental issues. He is involved in various projects aiming to address environmental challenges and empower young individuals from marginalised communities.

Read

Introducing Mihai | Showcasing the Unheard

Mihai Oancea, a young Romanian from a traditional Roma community, is a founder of the youth NGO, ROMA T.E.A.M. Association. They offer mentorship programs and screening activities for vulnerable communities, with a focus on empowering young people. Mihai’s vision is to create community centers for education and mental health, and he believes that Roma people should be involved in different contexts to fight against racism and make the community more inclusive.

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Introducing Mihai | Showcasing the Unheard

Is the Global Biodiversity Framework enough?

Discussing the outcomes of COP15 and the next steps

Is the Global Biodiversity Framework enough?
While there are concerns about protected areas and funding, civil society and youth play a crucial role in holding governments accountable and pushing for implementation.

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Between 1970-2018 there's been an average 69% decline in monitored global wildlife population
15th of December 2022, 196 countries came together for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15)
The GBF includes four overarching goals
One of the 23 targets had been on the agenda far in advance of COP15
concerns regarding the targets
role of the civil society

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The Biodiversity Crisis

It is 2023 and we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction. Unlike the five extinction events before, this one is primarily caused by human activity and the unsustainable use of land, water, and energy. According to the latest Living Planet Report, published in 2022, there has been an average 69% decline in monitored global wildlife populations between 1970 and 2018.

Due to the interlinked nature of the climate and biodiversity crises, rising temperatures are already causing mass mortality events, causing entire species to go extinct. Climate change is expected to replace land use change as the main driver for biodiversity loss if the 1.5-degree target will not be met, underlining the urgency of bold action on both crises.

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity that was held in December 2022 was a crucial moment for 196 countries to come to an ambitious agreement that would put us on the path to come to “peace with nature“. With the stakes as high as they are today and none of the Aichi targets of 2010 being met, the hopes for a complementary goal to net zero by 2050 – net-positive biodiversity by 2030 – were high, together with the delivery of strong targets to set us on the path to a safe future for humanity.

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?

In 1992, a historic international legal instrument (known as a treaty) for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and equitable sharing of genetic resources was agreed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today, 196 countries have ratified the treaty, known as the Convention of Biological Diversity (that’s nearly every country on the planet!).

The Parties of the CBD, meet regularly every two years to set commitments and global targets. In 2010, the countries united to set the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets (under the CBD Strategy Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020) in order to make radical changes to protect and prevent irreversible biodiversity loss across the world. A decade later, on the expiration date, disappointingly, in a UN report, it was found that not a single one of the targets had been met.

With biodiversity declining rapidly over the last decade, an agreement and agenda for 2030 and 2050 was urgent. Two years delayed (December 2022), the members of the CBD met for COP15 which was held in Montreal, Canada with the goal to finalise and agree to targets for protecting and enhancing nature for 2030 and 2050.

Global Biodiversity Framework

The conference concluded with an international agreement that set new goals and targets, recognised as the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The GBF includes four overarching goals and 23 targets to achieve by 2030.

TargetDescription
1Effective management of land- and sea-use change, loss of highly important biodiverse areas close to zero by 2030
2Effective restoration of 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030
3Effective conservation and management of 30% of land and 30% of oceans by 2030
4Halt human-induced extinctions and maintain and restore genetic diversity
5Sustainable use, harvesting and trade of wild species
6Mitigate or eliminate the impacts of invasive alien species, reduce the rates of establishment of invasive species by 50% by 2030
7Reduce pollution risks and impacts from all sources by 2030, reduce the overall risk from pesticides by half
8Minimise the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity
9Ensure sustainable use and management of wild species, while protecting customary use by Indigenous peoples
10Sustainable management of areas under agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry
11Restore and enhance ecosystem function through nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches
12Increase the area and quality of urban green and blue spaces
13Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources
14Integration of biodiversity into policies and development across all sectors
15Enable businesses to monitor, assess and disclose their impacts on biodiversity
16Encourage sustainable consumption, including by reducing food waste by half by 2030
17Strengthen capacity for biosafety measures and ensure benefits-sharing from biotechnology
18Phase out or reform harmful subsidies in a just way, reducing them by $500bn by 2030
19Substantially increase financial resources, mobilise $200bn per year by 2030 from all sources, including $30bn from developed to developing countries
20Strengthen capacity-building and technology transfer
21Integrated and participatory management, including the use of traditional knowledge
22Equitable representation and participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities
23Ensure gender equality in the implementation of the framework

30 by 30

One of the targets that had been on the agenda far in advance is target 3. Pushed for by the High Ambition coalition (an intergovernmental group of more than 100 countries), the target calls for 30% of the earth’s land and sea to be effectively conserved and managed by 2030. This should be achieved through the establishment of protected areas (PAs) and other area-based conservation measures (OECMs).

On a European level, the most important categories of PAs are the Natura 2000 network established through the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Emerald network and UNESCO Biosphere reserves. Target 3 acts as the replacement of Aichi target 11, which aimed for the protection of at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas. While that target was not met on a global level, it was partially successful in numbers, the number of terrestrial PAs increasing from 10% to 15% and from 3% to around 7% in marine areas, as reported in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5.

However, concerns regarding the actual quality of the PAs were high, as many lack connectivity, don’t always safeguard the most important areas for biodiversity and are not equitably and effectively managed. The quantity vs. quality debate is continuing now with the 30 x 30 target, demanding the GBF to emphasise the quality of PAs and OECMs to accompany the 30% target.

In connection to target 22, which calls for equitable representation and participation of indigenous peoples and communities (IPLCs), there is serious concern about the 30 by 30 target on indigenous rights, as it fails to recognise indigenous rights as a separate category of PAs. In a joint statement, a group of major human rights organisations such as Amnesty International claimed that the target “will devastate the lives of Indigenous Peoples and will be hugely destructive for the livelihoods of other subsistence land-users, while diverting attention away from the real drivers of biodiversity and climate collapse”. 

This so-called “fortress conservation” describes conservation initiatives that focus on nature in the very narrow sense and don’t take traditional territories and livelihoods of IPLCs into account, not acknowledging traditional knowledge. Studies have found that areas managed by indigenous communities contribute equally as much to global biodiversity conservation as state-governed areas and other governance types.

Increase finance for biodiversity

Target 19 of the Framework aims to mobilise at least US $200 billion per year in international biodiversity funds and raise international financial flows from developed to developing countries to at least US $20 billion per year by 2025, and to at least US $30 billion per year by 2030.

Directing funds towards developing countries is important since they are often home to the largest share of the world’s biodiversity and face significant economic challenges that can make it difficult to invest in biodiversity conservation and restoration efforts. However, according to a report from the Nature Conservancy, at least $700 billion (again, instead of US $200 billion) a year is needed to fund activities that benefit nature and resultantly, reverse global biodiversity loss by 2030. Therefore, there is a shortfall in international biodiversity funding and concerns about how the gap in biodiversity finance will be achieved.

In addition at the Conference, it was agreed that the Convention through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will set up a Special Trust Fund (known as the GBF Fund) to act as a financial mechanism for the implementation of GBF. However, the GBF is seen as a shortfall since the Parties failed to create a dedicated international biodiversity fund separate from the existing GEF fund. The GEF is under-resourced and also addresses other global issues such as climate change (it funds UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement). Moreover, there are issues accessing the GEF funds and bias of funding towards countries that have the capacity to submit proposals.

Reduce environmentally damaging subsidies 

Target 18 of the Framework aims to phase out or reform harmful subsidies for biodiversity and reduce them by at least USD 500 billion per year by 2030. A study this year found that global governments spend at least $1.8 trillion a year (equivalent to 2% of the global GBP) on subsidies that harm the environment. Fossil fuel, agriculture and water industries receive 80% of these EHS per year. A similar target for reforming subsidies was part of the Aichi targets which wasn’t achieved. Governments failed to act on subsidies and there is concern that Target 18 of the GBF might not be reached. The loss of biodiversity from perverse subsidies undermines and works against the goals of the CBD.

There is a need to redirect a significant proportion of the subsidies to support policies that are beneficial for nature, rather than “financing our own extinction”. Redirecting and repurposing subsidies can make an important contribution to finding the US $700 billion per year in biodiversity funding needed. In the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Council pledged to phase out EHS and reform subsidies that have negative impacts on biodiversity. Moreover, the EU is working to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, which has historically supported intensive farming that can contribute to biodiversity loss, to promote more sustainable farming and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers. In addition, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy includes measures to promote sustainable fisheries management and reduce the environmental impacts of fishing activities.

Youth NGOs and their role in nature conservation

While The Global Biodiversity Framework has increased ambitions compared to its predecessor, is without a doubt an imperfect solution. Calls for higher numbers in funding, changes in the funding structures as well as concerns about indigenous rights and the quality of Protected Areas are credible and are just examples of weak points of the GBF.

To save the trust in and credibility of the agreement, the actual implementation of the targets in the coming 2 years (until the next CBD COP) will be crucial. If done right, the agreement does have the potential to make a difference in biodiversity conservation on a global scale. However, taking into account the lack of quantifiable measures that make it possible to hold countries and governments accountable, the role of actors of the civil society and ultimately Youth is undeniable and should act as a motivation to push for the implementation of the agreement.

Prior to the Conference, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) had expressed strong concern that judging from the draft agreement, the GBF would lead to another decade of „more of the same“, describing a lot of the proposals as „false solutions“. Following the activities of Global youth networks and NGOs such as the GYBN is the first easy step you can take to step up for global biodiversity conservation. Holding governments accountable is up to us, especially considering the fact that the agreed targets are not legally binding for the signing parties. That is why getting involved on a national level is just as important, which can easily be done by contacting the MP of the department for environment, raising questions, concerns and thoughts. Youth are raising awareness for the issues concerning nature conservation and climate change by getting involved in International Youth Boards and organisations and making sure that their voices are heard.

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Is the Global Biodiversity Framework enough?

Germany has a toxic boyfriend

The relation between the country and coal in the context of the climate and energy crises.

the relation between the country and coal in the context of the climate and energy crises
Germany is particularly vulnerable to disruptions in the global fossil fuel supply chain. Can coal be considered a temporary solution to the energy crisis?

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2022 Energy in Germany
Can coal be considered a temporary solution to the energy crisis in Germany?
How do you deal with the energy gap that you could have filled with coal?

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How did we end up with an energy crisis in Europe?

The consequences of the sudden cut in oil production caused by the covid-19 pandemic, together with the sanctions (and the related retaliatory policies) that followed the Russian invasion in Ukraine, stifled the supply of fossil fuels to Europe. With gas, coal and oil becoming increasingly harder to source, their price has skyrocketed, thus triggering an energy crisis.

Effect of the Energy crisis in Germany

Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is particularly vulnerable to this disruption in the global fossil fuel supply chain. On the one hand, the country has the highest demand for electricity in Europe. On the other, most of this demand is met by burning imported gas, coal and oil (i.e., those same commodities whose price has gone through the roof recently). To make things worse, until recently the country’s primary supplier was – you guessed it – Russia. I don’t want to bother you too much with the numbers, but in case you are interested here are two detailed sources to learn more about the German Energy Mix and its Fossil Fuels Supply chain.

As of Spring 2022, government officials find themselves in a tricky position. They need to come up with a way to meet the biggest demand for energy in the continent, or else the country’s economy will collapse, but imported fossil fuels are increasingly inaccessible and expensive. To respond to these challenges, a wide set of policies are implemented with the aim to reduce Germany’s dependence on international markets. Some actively foster the energy transition, by boosting investment in renewables and promoting consumer and producer sobriety. Others, however, go in the opposite direction.

Breaking a nine year trend, since 2021 the share of coal used in the country’s energy mix has started to grow again. While in 2019 the government had established a plan to completely phase out coal by 2038, now the priorities seem to have changed. In an effort to replace some of the energy previously produced with Russian gas and oil, it has been decided that 20 coal-burning plants that were supposed to be shut down by 2023 (according to the original timeline) will instead continue operations this year. The inability to source gas from international markets has also been used to provide political legitimacy to the decision to go through with the expansion of the Garzweiler II brown coal (aka lignite) mine, which now also includes the soil under the recently demolished Lützerath. 

Not everyone agreed with the idea of destroying this small town in the middle of the Rehin region. Since 2020, thousands of activists had been occupying the area to prevent the expansion of the mine. The argument was simple: if the fuel under Lützerath is burnt, its emissions will make it hard for Germany to meet the emission reduction targets it agreed to in 2015. This claim was backed by the German Institute for Economic Research. In the end, the pro-coal faction won and in late January the village was evacuated, allowing the expansion to start.

Can coal be considered a temporary solution to the energy crisis?

If what we are looking for is an immediate way to provide more energy to the system, increasing coal consumption seems to be an effective and easily achievable — albeit a bit short sighted — solution to the energy crisis. Firstly, internationally sourced hard coal offers a cheaper substitute to the more scarce and more expensive gas. Secondly, lignite is the only fuel that can still be domestically sourced from the country’s active mines. As such, it is a more reliable, less volatile source of energy, whose use contributes to the temporary strengthening of the country’s energy sovereignty. Finally, the infrastructure to turn coal into energy is already there, meaning that increasing capacity requires smaller investments and less time.

Nonetheless, all this comes at a great environmental and social cost. At the global level, coal is the deadliest source of energy. Throughout the world, for every terawatt-hour of electricity produced using hard coal 25 people lose their lives. The figure rises to 32 deaths when we consider lignite (which, as a reminder, is the type of coal that is mined in Germany).  Looking more specifically at the case of Germany, coal is responsible for up to 2260 preventable deaths. If you want to learn more about how deadly are other sources of energy, you can check out this interesting visualization made by Statista. The reason behind this macabre first place is pretty straightforward : coal (and especially lignite) releases a high quantity of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere. Talking about first places, the burning of coal is also the single largest contributor to anthropogenic climate change, emitting more CO2 per gigawatt-hour produced than any other fossil fuel. Consequently, if coal is not eliminated from the country’s energy mix fast enough, meeting the emission reduction targets agreed upon in Paris becomes basically impossible, as we were reminded by the “1.5 degrees means Lützerath stays” banner outside the entrance of the occupied town.

The example of Lützerath also points at another important limitation of coal. Lignite mining takes space and in doing so, it destroys both social and natural ecosystems. Since the end of WW2 around 300 cities have been destroyed to make space for extraction operations, with that more than 120 thousand people have been eradicated from their local communities and relocated somewhere else. With that, pieces of cultural heritage have also been demolished, such as the church of St. Lambertus in Immerath. Aside from impacting human settlements, land mining also radically changes the landscapes of the areas in which it is performed, thus destroying the habitat needed for the local flora and fauna to survive and increasing the risk of loss of biodiversity.

Ok, but what do we make of this – maybe a bit disproportionate –  pros and cons analysis? In light of what I just said, I would argue that increasing coal use cannot be an answer to the crisis. We know that producing electricity by burning this fuel implies a high environmental and social toll that is hard to justify. Because of this, the government has decided to phase out coal completely by 2038.  At the same time, however, to this day coal is still a pillar of the German economy. In 2021, it supplied 30% of the national demand for electricity and, in 2018, it provided almost 40 thousand jobs (this last piece of data is a bit old, but given the trends we described before I would expect up to date figures to still be a sizable number). Consequently, unwinding this deep integration without causing a socio-economic crisis takes time – as shown by the fact that the final target date set by the government is in 15 years – and erasing the progress done in the last couple of years makes the process even longer. This means more pollution, more land use and more preventable deaths. On top of this, the country really does not have the space of maneuver to delay this process any further than it already has if it wants to meet the emission reduction targets it agreed to in 2015.

How do you deal with the energy gap that you could have otherwise filled with coal?

While renewables are of course an option, I would suggest more emphasis should be put on the reduction of the national energy consumption, rather than on diversification. The energy and environmental crises are showing us that it is now anachronistic to assume we have access to an unlimited supply of energy ready to satisfy whatever demand we might have. Hence, it is time that we come to terms with this reality and start building our production and consumption patterns based on the amount of energy that is sustainable to consume. I understand that this is a radical change, but, whether one likes it or not, we are entering an age of limits. If we adapt to it gradually, we will have to sacrifice a bit more at first, but we will be better fit for it in the long run. If we ignore what is happening, the change in the way we live will be more traumatic and potentially dangerous. 

Of course, this line of reasoning stretches further than the borders of Germany and, mutatis mutandis, applies to every policy solution that is supposed to tackle the environmental and energy crises.

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Germany has a toxic boyfriend

Fit for 55: the legislative package that the EU must not fail

The discussion within the EU around the Fit For 55 legislative package is at the core of the EU's current action on environmental policies and laws. It is therefore essential to understand why the need to update the policies regarding EU climate change, the crucial steps of decision-making, and how we can participate in this process. Thus, this article aims at informing you about the FF55, what it is, why we are talking about it, and why access to justice is an extremely relevant topic.

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What is Fit For 55?

The European Green Deal significantly raises the EU’s climate ambition to deliver on its multilateral commitments under the Paris Agreement (2015) and put it on a path toward climate neutrality. The FF55 is a set of twelve proposals presented by the European Commission on 14th July 2021 that aims to revise and update EU climate policies with the objective to make a legal obligation for all the EU countries to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHG) to 55% compared to 1990 by 2030. It implements and meets the longer-term Green Deal, by aligning with the EU objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

The aim is to guarantee a just and socially fair transition and strengthen innovation and competitiveness of EU industry while ensuring a level playing field vis-à-vis third country economic operators. Furthermore, it is used as a tool for the  EU to lead the way in the global fight against climate change.

The Fit for 55 package’s proposals were presented and discussed at a technical level within the Council’s working parties responsible for the policy area concerned before they landed on the table of EU member states. Discussions are held to prepare the ground for an agreement on the proposals among the 27 member states. EU ministers, in various Council configurations, then exchanged views and seeked an agreement on a common position on the proposals. This forms the basis on which the presidency of the Council then engaged with the European Parliament in negotiations to find a common agreement in view of the final adoption of the legislative acts. 

The Fit for 55 package was submitted to the Council in July 2021 and it is being discussed across several policy areas, such as environment, energy, transport, and economic and financial affairs. Concretely, the FF55 is composed of different rules regulating climate-related sectors and includes a high variety of sectors, among which the: Renewable Energy Directive (RED); The Emission Trading System (ETS); The Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR); The Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry Regulation (LULUCF).

2019, 2020 & 2021 – How do we achieve climate neutrality?

The Fit for 55 takes  its sources in 2019 when the EU leaders endorsed the 2050 Climate neutrality objective. Poland was the only one to express reservations on the subject. Following this resolution, in October 2020 the EU leaders discussed the EU’s Climate ambition for 2030 and the Council adopted conclusions on the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. 

Things accelerated in April 2021 when the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement of reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG) to 55% compared to 1990 by 2030. On 20 July 2021, EU environment ministers discussed FF55 during an informal meeting, and from this date, the official discussion started. 

The first formal minister debate took place on October 6 and was focused on the impact of the proposals on citizens, emissions trading to buildings, and road transports. 

For the last meeting of the year 2021, the environment Council took note of a progress report prepared by the Slovenian presidency and held a policy debate on five of the files in FF55 which are: 

*Infographic – Fit for 55: how the EU will turn climate goals into law

2022 – securing the energy supply

On 24 February 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine started. Since then, the EU has been facing the challenge of security of energy supply due to its dependency on Russian gas, and as 45% of natural gas consumed by the EU comes from Russia, it was quickly necessary to find alternative sources and therefore, by force of circumstance, to review the FF55 energy plan.

Thus, within the Parliament, ongoing discussions target the ways in which these rules can be amended, changed, and updated to meet the climate policy objectives. The European Commission presented on March 8 the idea of coming up with a new project which aims at phasing out Russian fossil fuels and becoming more autonomous and independent regarding its energy supply and security. The plan was well received by EU leaders, who signed the Versailles declaration. They all agreed on the necessity to make the EU independent from  Russian energy imports as soon as possible. On May 18, the Commission presented the REPowerEU plan, and a week after the EU Energy Platform Task Force was established to secure alternative supplies.

On 29 June 2022, the Council of the EU adopted a common position on the package presented in July 2021 by the Commission. A general approach under the French Presidency was agreed on, which differs in significant ways from the  European Parliament’s Committee for Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE) report. 

More precisely, Member States adopted a common approach to the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS), effort-sharing between member states in non-ETS sectors (ESR), emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), the creation of a social climate fund (SCF) and new CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans. 

The Council supports a binding renewable energy sources (RES)target of only 40 % by 2030, reflecting the Commission’s original proposal (July 2021). The general approach offers Member States the flexibility to choose between a 13% reduction in GHG intensity or a 29 % share of RES in the final energy consumption in the transport sector by 2030. The general approach proposes lower sub-targets for mainstreaming RES in heating and cooling (+0.8% annually until 2026 and +1.1 % thereafter) and industry (+1.1% annually), but also requires that 35 % of the hydrogen used in the industry should come from RFNBOs by 2030, rising to 50 % by 2035.

This common position is called “general approaches”.

The year 2022 ended up with endless negotiations regarding nuclear power. The socialists and greens support banning atomic power, but some countries, more nuclear-dependent such as France, are opposing the above positions towards atomic energy. Finally, on July 6, the Parliament voted to record nuclear power as renewable energy. The chapter on renewable energies of FF55 is therefore greatly impacted since the threshold to be met will now include not only solar and wind energy but also renewable nuclear and gas.

2023 – planning ahead

Even though 2023 just started 3 months ago, the discussion around the possibility of setting national sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is still in process. Indeed the aviation industry is one of the main parts of Fit For 55. Under this regulation, all planes departing from an EU airport will have to refuel as they become available with sustainable aviation fuel (CAD) — low-carbon alternatives to kerosene made from advanced biofuels and hydrogen-derived green synthetic fuels.

The European Parliament and the Council do not agree on the percentage of CAD to be imposed — the Parliament wants 85% by 2050, while the Council sticks to the 63% proposed by the Commission — and on the matters first to be designated as “sustainable”.

The inclusion of nuclear as a potential energy source to create synthetic fuels was the red line for Socialist (S&D) and Green (Greens/EFA) MEPs.

FuelEU Maritime, the sibling of ReFuelEU Aviation, will also be negotiated in 2023.

Unlike the aviation fuel law, FuelEU does not mandate the type of fuel that must be used in ships. Rather, it sets increasingly strict carbon intensity limits that must be respected. 

However, green-minded legislators are concerned that giving the shipping industry carte blanche will see them choose the cheapest rather than the greenest option to meet the targets. Specifically, the option to fuel ships with liquefied natural gas – a fossil fuel – up to 2030 has proven controversial.

Finally, concerning the automotive sector, new thermal engine cars will be banned from sale by 2035. However, the lack of charging stations creates a significant problem for the development of electric cars.

Both the private sector and national governments are working to increase the availability of charging points. In Brussels, the issue is addressed through the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).

AFIR sets out requirements for the number of charging stations along the EU’s main transport corridors and aims to make it easier to pay for charging, particularly when crossing into another EU country.

Access to Justice in the FF55

Other than being crucial that MEPs find fast, common agreements on these, it is also likely crucial that Member States (MSs) implement and enforce the package. Once adopted by the EU, the package will be in the hands of MSs, which have the responsibility to implement the updates

The Aarhus Convention, signed in 1998, sets three important pillars —access to information, public participation, and access to justice — which are the cornerstones of environmental and climate governance in Europe. As also parties of the Convention, EU member states and the EU itself have an obligation to implement all its pillars.

Among these pillars, ensuring that  EU citizens and NGOs have the right of access to justice is essential to make sure that member states are held accountable in case of disrespect of environmental and climate objectives. Despite the fact that regulations have a direct effect on Member States’ laws, access to justice in environmental matters is still very limited. The right of access to justice has been therefore subject to strong advocacy work from EU environmental NGO. According to them, it is crucial to have a liability mechanism open to civil society for holding MSs accountable for any violation: the climate emergency does not allow delays in the implementation of measures.

With the massive work around the FF55, there is a concrete possibility to include access to justice provisions within EU climate rules and ensure the empowerment of civil society in challenging MSs when not complying with the agreed targets. As a matter of fact, there is neither democracy nor a green Europe without sound and coherent access to justice: the FF55 must not be the exception.

Finally, it is important to remember that FF55 is still open for updates, the negotiations are still in process so NGOs can and must put pressure on Member States to make this agreement sustainable and greener. 

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Fit for 55: the legislative package that the EU must not fail

Climate adaptation at COP27 through a youth lens

Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) and Youth4Nature (Y4N) are international youth-led organisations within the nature-climate nexus that strive to bring the voices of youth from across Europe (YEE) and across the globe (Y4N) to the forefront of environmental discussions and decision-making.

Building on this synergy and upon COP27 momentum – two weeks within the international agenda where all eyes focused on the climate negotiations – the two organisations met on the ground at Sharm el-Sheikh to share knowledge amongst youth peers globally on what adaptation is and how youth experience it, with an emphasis on amplifying diverse youth perspectives and environmental justice.

Points of the discussion

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Adaption at COP27 through a youth lens | Report

I am amazed about activists and their passion and drive

Disclaimer

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

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

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Kacper Lubiewski is a 19-year-old Israeli-Polish climate activist living in Berlin. He started his activism in 2019, joining the climate movement in the same year. He is also a member of a housing activist group. For him, activism means working towards change and making a difference. He encourages those interested in activism to research their chosen cause, find a community, and take care of themselves to avoid burnout.

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

My name is Kacper Lubiewski, I’m an Israeli-Polish activist. I have been based in Poland for the majority of my life, but for a year now I’ve been living in Berlin. I’m 19, and the majority of the activism that I used to do and that I’m still doing is climate activism. Since I moved to Berlin I also started being active in a housing activist group.  

How did it all start for you?

It all started for me in 2019, so I have been active for four years now. I was 15 at the time and I attended a session of the European Youth Parliament (a great organisation by the way that I am recommending everyone to check out) and I met a lot of fantastic and motivated people there. This has really put me in a dilemma with what I am doing with my free time. I come from a village next to a small town in Poland called Opole and in my life I had this feeling that everything is sort of just omitting and getting by Opole and there’s nothing happening there. 

And 2019 was the time of Greta Thunberg and climate school strikes. I wanted to be part of it. I saw great potential in the movement, that was just getting started but seemed like a cause that I wanted to help with. So yeah, that was definitely one part of it, just being surrounded by and seeing for the first time a lot of people who are active, passionate and dedicated.

I realised that’s an important cause and I’m not going to let another great big thing just not happen and that’s how I started a local group of Fridays for Future in Opole and then I started working with the national and international movement. 

What does activism mean to you? 

I think that activism can be understood very broadly, as in this day and age there are just so many ways to be an activist.

“You can be a cyber activist, a street activist, you can be a spokesperson, you can do graphics, you can do some other type of art you can use to support your voice.”

There are so many different areas but I think what binds it all is the drive for change. And I think that activists realise that there is something wrong in the status quo, be it climate policy or the situation of the queer community. And then they sense this need for change there and they work towards it. 

I started being active in the climate movement just because I realised that this is purely a survival issue for the entire planet and the next generations on it. Sometimes it is a question of survival and knowing that this is the very last moment that we can do something about the climate catastrophe before we cross the tipping points.

What activities are you engaged in at the moment?

I’m still quite fresh in the housing movement. It’s only been a few months and I have dedicated most of my time to just learning and reading up on the issue. But when it comes to the climate movement, I’m proud of quite a few things. I feel like I and the rest of the people in my local group have effectively brought the climate movement to my city. We have organised dozens of different protests and we stayed vocal on a lot of issues. We have organised different types of protests, but I’m most proud of a very big march that we did there. 

That was around the time of COP26 in Scotland. I’m also proud of all the workshops that we’ve organised. Educating others has become such a big passion of mine and I have organized workshops on the different intersections of climate catastrophe with other issues, like the queer movement, or I talked about the comparison of Polish and German climate policy. 

I myself am Jewish, so I was very excited to see the intersection between the Jewish culture and the climate crisis. So I also led such workshops and I’m currently working as a climate educator in an online school. 

What kind of communities do you work with?

At this point in my life, I like to identify myself as an independent climate activist. I think that over those four years, I have worked with pretty much everyone that was there in Poland. For example the Rise for Future, Greenpeace, 350.org, with Extinction Rebellion, with everyone that was there that they considered the issue important.

Right now, I think I’m just supporting whatever causes I find necessary and interesting. When it comes to the housing movement, I’m part of a group called Right to the City, which is based in Berlin, part of a bigger campaign in Berlin called Deutsche Wohnen and Co Enteignen. We are an English-speaking group of immigrants in Berlin who try to give this unique perspective on the housing crisis from an immigrant’s perspective. 

What do you enjoy most about being an activist? 

What I enjoy the most is the beautiful community that it creates. I think that activism is just full of beautiful people with so much drive and passion for knowledge, for change, for growth. I have met my best friends there, people that are closest to my heart at this point. 

And I’m just utterly amazed by what they do and by their passion and drive. I think that being part of a group helps you feel that you’re not alone when faced with big issues like discrimination or climate catastrophe. And you feel like you’re part of something bigger and that in this collective, you can cooperate to work for a greater good. And I definitely felt very supported. I grew a lot. I feel that I am simply a better person through my activism. The community definitely plays the biggest part for me.

How would you go about engaging more diverse groups of people into activism?

When it comes to the right to the city, we’re an immigrants-based group and you would think that it naturally means the immigrant community in Berlin is diverse. That isn’t actually the reality that often, because even in those marginalised communities, the default is there are only the most privileged in that community. So we have a lot of Western Europeans in Berlin, a majority of the group is white. There are some people of color as well as Eastern Europeans, myself included. 

We are currently brainstorming how we can expand the representation in the group to people of lower income, perhaps to people that don’t speak English fluently and to more people of color. We need to improve our outreach and actively engage with those groups. 

In Fridays for Future, however, I think that the movement that we started with was diverse. We had people from big towns, small towns, a lot of women, a lot of queer people,  and I would even say people of very different cultural backgrounds. 

We have very much celebrated that diversity. It went like: “You come from a small town?” “How can we platform your voice and make sure that you’re heard?” so that it is not just the Warsaw voices that are being heard.

How has the climate movement changed since you joined in 2019?

It got better funded. It also got better organised, there are more people with more experience. People get better at what they do over time. It also got incredibly more diverse. 

There are lots of different initiatives, small, big, loosely connected, very tight communities with a lot of philosophy behind them for the elderly, or for young people, for the in-between… There’s just so much to choose from. 

It has also radicalised itself in a good way. I think that the climate movement has begun to start asking itself about questions of intersectionality of the voices of the people from the Global South. It has also definitely started looking more at the housing crisis and how homelessness intersects with the climate crisis.

What’s next for you?

I want to stay within the climate movement. I definitely want to go to different blockades. I want to help out other activists. I want to support them however I can. I don’t think that I want to get involved in a particular group at the moment. I definitely want to get deeper into housing though. 

“The reason why I got into the housing movement was because I experienced the housing crisis myself.”

I realised how cruel it is and that has really pushed me towards organising myself within that sphere. The campaign that I mentioned before will be pushing for another referendum in Berlin to expropriate the very big housing companies that own a great deal of Berlin’s housing. I definitely want to work within that campaign and collect the signatures and engage in outreach and education on that topic.

If you could send a message out to these people that are thinking of getting involved in activism?

Do it. I would say to everyone who wants to get involved in activism, do it. 

And research the cause that you want to get involved in. Knowledge is a great power and it makes your work a lot easier, better informed and a lot more nuanced. Find a cause that’s dear to you. It might be animal rights, queer issues, women’s rights, climate policy… I assure you that there’s something for you. I really do doubt that there are people who are just indifferent to the entirety of all politics.

Second would be to find a community. I always think it’s better to actually start working in a group and just get knowledge and develop bonds. I think that’s a wonderful way to get active. 

And then I would say to just not burn yourself out and to remember about your own needs and your own health. There are too many wonderful activists who just keep burning themselves out because they have too much to do.

“Remember that a burned out activist is a useless activist because that doesn’t help the cause in the long run. It’s an investment.”

It’s an investment towards the cause and it’s also healthy and respectful towards yourself to know where to stop and when to stop and when to come right back to it with bigger strength.

Other interviews

Introducing Vladislava | Showcasing the Unheard

Meet Vlada, an 18 years old activist from St. Petersburg, Russia. Vlada coordinates Fridays for Future Russia and is especially interested in the melting of permafrost in Russia, the fate of indigenous peoples, ecofeminism, food security, and a just transition. She studies ecology at a Russian state university and dreams of doing a master’s degree on climate change in Europe, as this subject is not available anywhere in Russia.

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Introducing Rahim | Showcasing the Unheard

Rahim Zehdiev, a 27-year-old volunteer and green ambassador at Young Improvers for Youth Development in Smolyan, Bulgaria, is passionate about creating positive changes in his community and empowering young people, particularly in environmental issues. He is involved in various projects aiming to address environmental challenges and empower young individuals from marginalised communities.

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Introducing Mihai | Showcasing the Unheard

Mihai Oancea, a young Romanian from a traditional Roma community, is a founder of the youth NGO, ROMA T.E.A.M. Association. They offer mentorship programs and screening activities for vulnerable communities, with a focus on empowering young people. Mihai’s vision is to create community centers for education and mental health, and he believes that Roma people should be involved in different contexts to fight against racism and make the community more inclusive.

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Introducing Kacper | Showcasing the Unheard