Did you know that only a small number of rivers on our planet remain untouched by human influence? The recently designated Vjosa Wild River National Park, is a remarkable exception and serves as an example of our ability to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services within our waterways.
Liaison Officer on Biodiversity
Liaison Officer on Biodiversity
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The Vjosa River
In the Pindus mountains of Greece, close to the village of Vovousa, you can find the source of the last wild river of Europe – the Aoös/Vjosa river. Flowing northwest in natural meanders, it is joined by the river Voidomatis and eventually enters Albania, where it is again joined by the river Sarantaporos. Continuing its way northwest, passing the cities Përmet, Këlcyre and Tepelenë the river is joined by its Albanian tributaries Drin and Shushicë and finally flows into the Adriatic Sea close to the well-known city Vlorë.
As a result of major undisturbed natural processes, a unique landscape and ecosystem developed over thousands of years along the course of the river, based on different flow velocities and river depths ranging from unvegetated gravel bars to floodplain forests. Local people have found a way to live in harmony with this precious ecosystem, making use of and depending on its natural resources without posing a threat to its further existence. This also allows the continued existence of a vast variety of plant as well as animal species, native to the unique and rare habitats of the river. Flagship species that have been picked up by international media representing the unique flora and fauna are the Egyptian vulture, European eel and the Dalmatian pelican, just to name a few.
Europe’s First Wild River National Park
On march 15, 2023, the precious landscape around the last free-flowing wild river of Europe was announced as the Vjosa Wild River National Park. The protection status corresponds to IUCN’s Protected Area Management Category II, the main objective being the protection of its natural biodiversity and the underlying ecological structures and undisturbed natural processes. The protection and therefore continued existence of the ecosystem also aim at the promotion of education and recreational activities.
The first official proposal for the creation of a Vjosa National Park was put forward in early 2021 by 20 Albanian Environmental organisations, which was then backed up by a study conducted by the IUCN. In parallel to support by the community of scientists, public attention was further achieved by the release of an explanatory video by Patagonia as well as a significant action on World Water Day 2021 in several European cities.Throughout the year 2021, further gathering of scientific data on the Vjosa tributaries, publicity-boosting actions and the launch of a global petition were the last steps of the campaign, before it was declared a Nature Park in January 2022. However, with the status of a Nature Park not guaranteeing effective protection of the Vjosa and its tributaries and sufficient eco-touristic opportunities for the local people, the Vjosa river was finally declared a Wild River National Park ten months later, in March 2023.
Finding a floodplain today that remains untouched by significant human influence has become increasingly challenging. Floodplains are important ecologically, covering 7% of the European continent and accounting for up to 30% of terrestrial Natura 2000 site area in Europe. Alarming studies reveal that 70-80% of floodplain have suffered environmental degradation due to human activities.
Amid this concerning trend, the Vjosa River stands out as a remarkable exception. Baseline surveys have identified the Vjosa River as a reference site due to its exceptional ‘near natural status’, boasting high biodiversity and hosting endangered fauna and flora. Moreover the habitats found along the river possess an international value, making it a unique and valuable ecological system.
What sets the Vjosa River apart is its minimal human influence, a rarity in today’s world. The majority of its tributaries flow freely into the river, with only two of them subject to damming. This makes the Vjosa an invaluable case study for understanding and researching the ecological and morphological conditions of a floodplain. A critical aspect of utilising reference sites like the Vjosa is their utility in assessing human impacts on floodplains such as hydropower projects which pose a significant threat to river ecosystems and biodiversity. Therefore, the Vjosa serves as blueprint for understanding what a functioning river should look like and highlights the need to preserve and protect this ecosystem for future generations.
How you can get involved in protecting rivers:
Education: Learn more about important rivers in Europe, the challenges facing European rivers, and the impacts a national designation of a national park would have on biodiversity, society and the economy.
Volunteer: There are many opportunities to join charities and youth groups to clean litter from rivers, and to participate in hands-on work restoring rivers.
Participate in citizen science: Support scientists to collect data about rivers such as water quality and biodiversity monitoring. Data is important to understand more about rivers and to support petitions.
Join environmental organisations:Join as a member or volunteer with an environmental NGO working to restore rivers in Europe such as WWF, European Rivers Network or local river protection groups.
Advocate for policy change: Write letters, emails or petitions to government officials to advocate for stronger environmental regulations and policies that protect rivers.
More articles about biodiversity
Did you know that only a small number of rivers on our planet remain untouched by human influence? The recently designated Vjosa
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One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature
The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore nature. While the European Union is positioning itself as a global champion in this area, it's important to acknowledge that almost half of the political representatives did not support this initiative fully. Amendments that substantially weakened the law were adopted, which falls short of what science tells us is urgently needed.
Recently we celebrated the positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament, which is sending a strong message: restoring nature is an obligation. The European Union has put itself on the path to being a champion and pioneer of nature restoration globally, living up to promises made to citizens and at the global negotiation table.
We thank all the MEPs that listened to our perspective, welcomed our recommendations and voted also for the next generations. We want to particularly show our appreciation towards the work and the words of Rapporteur César Luena, who publicly recognized the efforts made by youth in the advocacy for this law.
However, we cannot ignore that almost half of our political representatives refused to restore nature, cold-shouldered the youth and refused to guarantee us a liveable environment. The law is still far from what science tells us it is urgent to do. We acknowledge with heavy hearts the adoption of amendments that substantially watered down the law. The amendments, especially those that delay targets and the initiation of actions, significantly shift the responsibility and efforts on us in the future. This is not fair from an intergenerational justice perspective, which the EU has agreed to respect as a guiding principle at COP15. In particular, refusal to accept the principle of non-deterioration means that we will continue to witness the degradation of our habitats, and so will our children and grandchildren.
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“While the unity and the strong, loud voices of young people ahead of the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law once again demonstrated the will and drive for positive change, the very close vote showed that this is not the case for a lot of MEPs deciding on policies that will determine the state of the ecosystems we depend on. This law is not only about Nature Restoration. It is about fighting for the continued existence of a liveable planet, which the law that was adopted on the 12th of July, does not do. This is why our work is not done and we will continue to fight for a law that is just - not only for us, but for the planet and generations to come.“
“Heeding the calls of scientists, young people and environmental activists, a narrow majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law during the Plenary of the European Parliament, an outcome that was not guaranteed but one that we celebrate as young Europeans. However, the vote’s close margin of victory underscores the significant opposition still facing the Law. It has been compromised in the voting process and the resulting legal amendments the Parliament agreed upon severely weaken the effectiveness of the NRL in combating biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. We need a more ambitious Law to ensure a future where both people and planet can thrive! Our work is not done and we demand that the Commission, Council and Parliament pass a Law that is as strong as possible and does not put the burden of mitigating environmental damages and economic short-sightedness on future generations.“
“The positive vote in the Parliament is a bittersweet success. It is great to see many MEPs that listened to science and young people and to see the EU sending out this message, but the journey is still long. However, laws or not, restoration activities and initiatives have been growing exponentially in the past years. And this will never stop: the restoration and rewilding movement is a snowball in a free fall down a slope, getting bigger and bigger. While politicians discuss in rooms, tons of people, of young people, are out there restoring and rewilding. This is the future. The law is not as ambitious as we wanted it? Then we will be ambitious, and we can be it now.”
“The vote in favour of nature was a crucial and most needed signal to the world.However, the narrow result, the disinformation campaign including blunt claims against all scientific evidence is very worrying for us. Let us hope, that during the Trialogue process some more common sense prevail and get something more ambitious than just restoring Nature 2000 areas. We all, and youth in particular, depend on a healthy environment - and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure them rather yesterday than tomorrow.”
“The NRL is the most crucial legislation for european biodiversity of my lifetime. For environmentalists in every part of society to finally have political will on the environments side should be a celebration. But seeing the Law being so close to get rejected and at the moment being so watered down from it's once clear agenda of saving our nature, is a new way politicians have made me disappointed. However, youth will continue our efforts to restore Europe's biodiversity, and we hope one day the elected few will follow the actual will of the people and join us truly in stopping the biodiversity crisis.”
“The Parliament's vote can be seen as a positive development, acknowledging the efforts made to secure a more promising future for all. The approval of the Nature Restoration Law reflects a significant stance by EU institutions in support of nature, despite the fact that recent negotiations have led to a dilution of its original objectives. Regrettably, at the national level, we, as GYBN Italy, hold the view that the situation is even more unfavorable, and Italian youth have experienced deep disappointment. Italy should ideally take a leading role in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. However, to our dismay, nearly all Italian MEPs voted against this vital legislation. This decision by the current political power has effectively disregarded the expectations of young people on almost every level. As a result, bitterness lingers among the younger generations, as they feel unrepresented, signifying that our endeavors to conserve and restore nature will not come to an end with this setback.”
"Even though negotiations for the Nature Restoration Law will see another day, the picture this whole process has painted is bleak, not only for Europe's nature and biodiversity, but for trust into political officials and democratic processes. Are we supposed to celebrate this small majority within Parliament that barely aknowledged science and the nature crisis?"
https://yeenet.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/One-step-closer-to-Nature-Restoration.png10801080Eva Kloudováhttps://yeenet.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/logo-yee-728x1030.pngEva Kloudová2023-08-01 13:33:502023-08-01 13:34:27One step closer to Nature Restoration - but not yet there | #RestoreNature
Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law
The coalition of youth organizations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament.
We, as concerned youth all over Europe, want to reiterate the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament.
What is being negotiated is not only a law: it is our future.
Young people and future generations deserve to grow up and live in healthy nature and functioning ecosystems. This, looking at the gloomy status of European species and habitats, can only be reached with an ambitious law that prescribes effective action now. A watered-down law means postponing on us, later, the efforts that should be made now – and this is not fair.
The rejection attempts by conservative and right-wing groups, led by the European People’s Party (EPP), are alarming, are failing youth, and are failing to consider us as stakeholders of the present and the future.
While we appreciate the efforts of other parliamentary groups such as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the Left, who have stood their ground and voted in favor of the Nature Restoration Law, we are disheartened by the disinformation campaign around this law. Spreading falsehoods and withdrawing from negotiations only hinders the progress necessary to address climate change and nature loss, gambling our future.
As the vote on the remaining amendments and the final report approaches on June 27th, we call on all Members of the European Parliament to prioritize the future of our planet and live up to their promises to youth. The Nature Restoration Law is not merely an environmental issue, it is a matter of intergenerational equity.
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“Let’s state it clearly: the success of the EU Green Deal depends on the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law. This is not just a political vote, but a matter of justice: the youngest and future generations, who will face the biggest impacts from climate change, need to be supported by strong environmental legislation today to be able to exercise many of their human rights tomorrow. The only fact that the law risks being blocked is a shame, and shows once again that the EU is not taking the climate crisis seriously. For the sake of the EU credibility and climate leadership globally, we urge policy-makers and political parties to align and adopt the law, as we are still on time to avoid the mistake of the century.“
“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.“
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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!"
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Influence the EU Nature Restoration Law | #RestoreNature
Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can curb nature and climate crises.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn the tide for nature in Europe: a law to #RestoreNature.
We need nature. Wetlands, forests, grasslands, marine habitats… all of them play a crucial role in regulating the climate and are vital to our survival. But did you know 80% of European nature is in bad shape? Luckily, all hope is not lost! We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn the tide for nature in Europe: a law to #RestoreNature.
This opportunity is unique because this law will legally oblige EU countries to restore a set amount of nature. If they fail, they can be held accountable, and taken to court. Right now, governments across the EU are discussing this new law. Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can curb nature and climate crises.
You are just one step away from making a differencefor nature
Send a nature picture and letter to your government and Members of the European Parliament!
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Is the Global Biodiversity Framework enough?
Discussing the outcomes of COP15 and the next steps
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.
Liaison Officer on Biodiversity
Liaison Officer on Biodiversity
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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.
Effective management of land- and sea-use change, loss of highly important biodiverse areas close to zero by 2030
Effective restoration of 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030
Effective conservation and management of 30% of land and 30% of oceans by 2030
Halt human-induced extinctions and maintain and restore genetic diversity
Sustainable use, harvesting and trade of wild species
Mitigate or eliminate the impacts of invasive alien species, reduce the rates of establishment of invasive species by 50% by 2030
Reduce pollution risks and impacts from all sources by 2030, reduce the overall risk from pesticides by half
Minimise the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity
Ensure sustainable use and management of wild species, while protecting customary use by Indigenous peoples
Sustainable management of areas under agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry
Restore and enhance ecosystem function through nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches
Increase the area and quality of urban green and blue spaces
Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources
Integration of biodiversity into policies and development across all sectors
Enable businesses to monitor, assess and disclose their impacts on biodiversity
Encourage sustainable consumption, including by reducing food waste by half by 2030
Strengthen capacity for biosafety measures and ensure benefits-sharing from biotechnology
Phase out or reform harmful subsidies in a just way, reducing them by $500bn by 2030
Substantially increase financial resources, mobilise $200bn per year by 2030 from all sources, including $30bn from developed to developing countries
Strengthen capacity-building and technology transfer
Integrated and participatory management, including the use of traditional knowledge
Equitable representation and participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities
Ensure 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.
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.
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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YEE aims to unite environmental youth non-profit organisations in Europe in order to enhance international cooperation, increase knowledge about the climate crisis, raise awareness of environmental problems and to strengthen participation of youth in environmental decision-making.
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