From food and clothes to cosmetics and mobile phones, the products we buy have a considerable impact on the planet. So, what can we do about it? On 7 April, young EU Climate Pact Ambassadors from across Europe put tough questions to the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, at the Youth Dialogue Kick-starting a sustainable Europe – with young people.
Smart solutions to pressing problems
The event gave 14 young people the opportunity to ask questions and share suggestions on how to reduce consumption and waste in practical terms, and to hear what the leading EU policymaker responsible for the Green Deal had to say.
For example, Maria Teresa from Portugal asked EVP Timmermans how the EU can become a fully circular economy without losing its competitiveness, to which he responded with his vision for a thriving, sustainable Europe. He noted that the EU is moving in the right direction with its Circular Economy Action Plan, and emphasised that new regulations will help by making products more repairable. However, he also called on society to rediscover the beauty of using products for longer.
On the topic of sustainability in food, Yohana from Spain noted that the annual cost of food waste in the EU is around €143 billion, while 33 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day. She asked: How can we shift from waste management to waste prevention to improve this situation? EVP Timmermans replied by stressing the need to rethink our economic model when it comes to food – by shoring up local supply chains, being smart about what we produce, and helping people to throw away less.
Zuzanna from Poland underlined the EU’s potential to unlock green progress by further supporting innovative sustainability projects: “There are plenty of creative initiatives developed by citizens, communities and young people especially that could revolutionise the system,” she said. “However, they cannot be implemented on a larger scale without support and recognition.”
On energy, Hlib from Ukraine gave a powerful testimony about his personal experience of the war in his country. “It is high time to massively deploy renewable energies to enhance energy security, decentralise the energy supply, empower citizens and local communities, as well as prevent fossil fuel revenues from being used to hurt human rights and freedoms worldwide,” he said.
The voices of young people are getting louder
As more young people advocate for sustainability, so too grows the opportunity to involve them in the big decisions being made. Suzanne from the Netherlands called for more structure to engage young people directly in policymaking. “In that way, youth participation will be more meaningful,” she said. Similarly, Fotios from Greece backed more EU-wide communication to ensure that citizens and young people are aware of the environmental impact of their consumer choices.
Rounding up the event, EVP Timmermans said that talking together as Europeans is an extremely important part of the solution, and we can solve this issue together so long as we engage with one another and remain open to new ideas.
Are you a young person with a vision of how to tackle the climate crisis? Then here’s your opportunity. 2022 is the European Year of Youth, so keep your eye out for new opportunities to have your say and join the debate!
- Publication date
- 28 April 2022