Youth Dialogue with DG Clima | #ClimateofChange

On December 8th, Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) organised the first Youth Dialogue with DG CLIMA to close the #ClimateOfChange project. For the better part of an hour, participants were able to question Director-General Mauro Petriccione on the EU’s climate policy and voice their ideas on what needs to change.

In the first part of the online event, participants debated among each other what question should be asked to the Director-General. To do so they were divided into thematic breakout rooms moderated by different members YEE’s Advocacy Members and Charlotte Billingham from the Foundation for Progressive European Studies (FEPS). Each of the three rooms reflected themes from the previous webinars in the Climate of Change series – Intergenerational justice (a thread running throughout the whole series), Climate and Nature (Building on the third webinar on nature-based solutions), and Adaptation to Climate Change (Combining elements from the webinars on climate migration and nature-based solutions).

After an introduction by Nathan Méténier, YEE’s External relations Officer, Vladislav Kaim and Nisreen Elsaim, members of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, and Venetia Galanaki, YEE Liaison Officer on Oceans and Arctic focused on the regional impacts of the EU’s climate policies. Vladislav made it clear that given the greater fossil fuel dependency of Eastern European countries, the EU needs to provide sufficient financial means to allow for a just transition in the region. Nisreen urged the DG to think about three concrete points: i.) A Life Programme for Africa, ii.) Reshape the AU-EU Summit agenda to allow for youth to interact with policymakers, and iii.) Exchange programmes for European Youth to come to Africa to see the effects of climate change on the ground. Ven raised concerns about the EU’s reliance on fossil fuels from the Arctic to assure its energy security and wanted to know how DG CLIMA will ensure that this stance does not conflict with the EU’s climate ambitions.

Mauro Petricione answered Vlad’s question by stressing the urgency to think of climate transformation as a philosophy that needs to be the baseline in everything we do. Protecting the climate and the environment is not an optional add-on that we can afford with special resources. We will only succeed in creating green jobs and living well within the planetary boundaries, if we look at all investments through the lens of sustainability. In response to Nisreen’s comments, Petriccione explained that legally, funding for the LIFE programme cannot be used outside of the EU. Nonetheless, it should be possible to find alternative sources to create the incentives for a similar programme on the African continent. Referring to the point on exchange programmes between the European and African youth, Petriccione made it clear that it depends on generational change. However, he added that he has seen an evolution into that direction over the last years. His answer with regards to the reshaping of the agenda of the AU-EU summit to allow for greater youth engagement was less positive, but he said he would try. On Venetia’s question he was even more straightforward. He reminded the audience that even if we get to a zero-carbon economy by 2050, warming in the Arctic is going to continue beyond that year. He criticised countries’ selfish interest in the resources that are currently still inaccessible but ended on a positive note. Good signs are coming from the future Biden administration, and that could forebode well for the Arctic.

In a second round of questions, representatives from the European youth asked the DG about the possibility of allowing youth to participate in the COP26 negotiations, open negotiations at the COP26 at which the youth could participate, how links between climate action and environmental policies can be fostered to prevent them from being played out against each other, and how policy can preemptively tackle the impact of climate change on our health systems. And, of course, there was also a question on whether the Commission would withdraw the CAP. No was the short answer to that as the CAP is essential to farming in Europe despite there being things in it that are simply not good enough. And while he is aware that in the eyes of many youth climate activists the CAP should be withdrawn, he is happy that for the first time in his career in the EU institutions young people are having a closer look at it. Then in his eyes, the youth is extraordinarily powerful in reminding people that things can change.

We at Youth and Environment could not agree more with this closing remark, and are already looking forward to the next Youth Dialogue with DG CLIMA! Stay tuned.

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