YEE joined the online youth dialogue with the Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans!

We are not fighting for the planet, the planet can go on with us, we are fighting for humanity.” These words are part of the opening statement of Frans Timmermans, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission leading the Commission’s work on the European Green Deal and its first European Climate Law, to a small audience of young climate activists, last week Thursday 17th September. 


The European Commission organised this online dialogue to provide representatives from organisations such as Generation Climate Europe, Fridays for Future, the European Youth Forum, Rise for Climate, and of course Youth Environment Europe, to 

i.) get an update on the latest developments on EU climate policy and the European Green Deal, 

ii.) share our views and ideas through engaging in an open discussion with the Commissioner, and 

iii.) discuss how the youth engagement can be built into the European Climate Pact. 


YEE’s External Relations Officer Nathan Métenier made the start by underlining the necessity of being ambitious and to empower young people, especially the marginalised ones. Showing ambition will mean leveraging climate diplomacy to put pressure on major polluters, rethink the ways we measure wellbeing and prosperity and commit to a system-wide change of the ways we live, produce, and consume. The themes at the core of these demands: justice, equality, and engagement, would return throughout the dialogue. 


There were also calls to second-guess the growth-focused narrative of the Commission and replace it with a more holistic view that concentrates less and more emphasis on helping people and the planet prosper. Realising this will require the EU climate targets for 2030 and 2050 to be forward-looking and bold. All the while ensuring the regions and communities reliant on greenhouse gas-intensive practices are being helped through mechanisms such as the Just Transition Fund. The funds for these mechanisms need to be secured and substantial enough for them to fulfill their purpose. Nonetheless, funds also need to be secured for grassroots organisations to engage young people that are not already part of the climate movement. We can only be successful if a great deal of our generation, Generation Climate, is part of the change to make our world a more sustainable place for all.


On behalf of the Liaison Officer on Biodiversity, Félix Feider, Elisha Winckel, Liaison Officer on Climate Change talked about the biodiversity crisis and how it tends to be overlooked. The new WWF’s Living Planet 2020 report underlines this by concluding that between 1970 and 2016 global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish declined on average by 68%. The major contributor to the stark decline in population sizes on land is agriculture. As the way humanity produces food, energy and goods is destroying the habitats of thousands of wildlife species, causing plunging population sizes and contributing to the emergence of diseases such as COVID-19. The European farm-to-fork strategy and Biodiversity strategy are good initiatives as they set targets that need to be achieved. But targets are only the first step of many, and now we need to work collectively to achieve them. For YEE, one promising solution to deal with the climate and biodiversity crises are nature-based solutions and a clear financial commitment to biodiversity protection in the European budget. We also need to ensure that we protect forests and ensure ecological standards throughout the chains of production that end in Europe. Social standards need to be part of that calculation as well. A green Europe is of no use to the planet if the rest of the world is brown as a consequence of its demand for natural resources. 


The scale of the challenge is enormous, and Europe needs to set an example and move other continents to follow. In the words of the Executive Vice President, fundamental to successful climate action will be the question of how the collective means are distributed and what role the younger generations will play. For him, our involvement is crucial than without our grassroots activism, the European Green Deal would not be what it is: ambitious. Let’s make it even more so.

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